Mo Salah could only laugh. Then, the forward promptly turned to grab his coat once more.
For three minutes, it seemed Liverpool were in desperate need of another moment of inspiration from their Egyptian king. Having led through Sadio Mane’s opener for most of the second half, Wilfried Zaha netted a late equaliser to put a dent in Liverpool’s hunt for the Premier League title.
So Jurgen Klopp turned to Salah, not fit enough to start, as the visitors pushed for a winner. The forward was ready, the fourth official was ready. But then with five minutes to play Firmino spared his team-mate the trouble.
Roberto Firmino struck with his left foot after the ball fell to him in the six-yard box following a goalmouth scramble
Firmino wheels away to celebrate his late winner with Georginio Wijnaldum and Virgil Van Dijk, who was involved in the goal
Mohamed Salah was only deemed fit enough to start on the substitutes bench and in the end was not required to come on
Wilfried Zaha celebrates his 82nd minute equaliser but it wasn’t enough to salvage a point for the hosts on Saturday
Sadio Mane volleys the ball goalwards with his left-foot, with the ball taking a deflection off Palace’s Gary Cahill into the net
Mane kisses the pitch as he celebrates his seventh Premier League goal of the season – he is Liverpool’s top scorer
CRYSTAL PALACE 1-2 LIVERPOOL – PLAYER RATINGS, MATCH FACTS AND LEAGUE TABLE
Crystal Palace (4-3-3): Guaita 6.5, Ward 6 (Kelly 70, 6), Tomkins 6.5, Cahill 6.5. Van Aanholt 6; Milivojevic 6.5, Kouyate 6 (Schlupp 72, 6), McArthur 6; Townsend 6.5, Zaha 6.5, Ayew 6 (Benteke 76)
Subs not used: Hennessey, Dann, Meyer, McCarthy
Goals: Zaha 82
Yellow cards: None
Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson 6; Alexander-Arnold 5, Lovren 6, Van Dijk 6.5, Robertson 7; Fabinho 6.5, Wijnaldum 6.5, Henderson 6 (Milner 79, 6); Oxlade-Chamblerlain 6.5 (Origi 64, 6), Mane 7, Firmino 7 (Gomez 89)
Subs not used: Adrian, Milner, Keita, Salah, Lallana
Goals: Mane 49, Firmino 85
Yellow cards: Fabinho
Referee: Kevin Friend
Season at a glance
- Premier League
- Premier League
- League One
- League Two
- Scottish Premiership
- Scottish Div 1
- Scottish Div 2
- Scottish Div 3
- Ligue 1
- Serie A
- La Liga
This is now the Liverpool way, of course. Just ask Leicester, Aston Villa and Manchester United – this unbeaten title charge is being sustained by late goal after late goal.
So instead it was Joe Gomez who came off the bench as Liverpool held on for another huge three points. The frightening thing for the rest of the Premier League is just how much more they have left to give.
Again here at Selhurst Park, there were gaping holes in their performance – notably in the display of Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Again, though, they left with three points, their superiority atop the table maintained at the very least. Who, or what, is going to stop their progress? VAR, perhaps?
Here, for the second game running, Liverpool benefited from a tight decision as James Tomkins’ first-half opener was ruled out for a push. Palace had other chances, too, but they ran out of steam at the end of this tough run of games.
James Tomkins heads in at the back post after the ball is inadvertently flicked on by Liverpool midfielder Wijnaldum
The ball strikes the back of the net and Tomkins wheels away celebrating, but the goal was disallowed for a foul off the ball
The big screen at Selhurst Park informs supporters of the decision, due to Jordan Ayew’s shove of Dejan Lovren in the box
Liverpool, meanwhile, now begin a ludicrous spell of fixtures, with up to 11 matches between now and the turn of the year. For now, though, they will savour yet another late victory.
Mane has now scored in each of Liverpool’s last five games against Palace but he could have stretched that run much earlier. Within 10 minutes he created and nearly converted the visitors’ first shooting chance.
His neat turn on the touchline sent two Palace players down a blind alley, allowing Liverpool to work a crossing chance through Alexander-Arnold. The defender’s pull-back found Mane in the box but his effort was well blocked. Then minutes later, Alexander-Arnold almost turned provider for the home side.
His crossfield pass went straight to Andros Towsend on the Palace right. Eventually, the ball came out to Cheikhou Kouyate, whose lovely ball was poked wide by Jordan Ayew.
Jordan Ayew reacts after missing a glorious chance to open the scoring but he poked his volley just wide of the post
It was a poor miss but one Palace thought they wouldn’t rue for long. Shortly before the break Tomkins headed home after Gini Wijnaldum flicked on Luka Milivojevic’s free-kick.
Soon the cheers turned to boos as VAR Chris Kavanagh decided the goal should be not stand because of a push by Ayew on Dejan Lovren. It was a clear foul, but the decision still felt harsh on Palace.
There was fury among the home supporters but during half-time Palace showed they still had a sense of humour, when the stadium announcer warned kids taking part in a penalty shootout to avoid any ‘light pushes in the area’.
It was the correct decision for a foul on Lovren, but Tomkins was certainly unaware of any infringement after nodding in
For Liverpool, it was certainly a let-off. Going forward their build-up had lacked the pace and precision fans have come to expect.
It seemed that had changed in an instant shortly after the break, when Jordan Henderson found Mane with a pinpoint pass on the counter. The forward took the ball in his stride and bore down on Palace’s goal. But his effort was stroked wide.
Moments later, though, all was forgotten. Andy Robertson’s limp cross was allowed to run all the way to Mane on the penalty spot. Tomkins somehow missed it and this time Palace were punished.
Mane’s shot on the turn was tipped on the post by Vicente Guaita. The ball rolled across towards the other post and over the line before Patrick van Aanholt could clear.
Players from both sides look on as the ball goes past Cahill, eventually finding its way into the back of the net off both posts
Left back Andy Robertson celebrate Liverpool’s opener in the 49th minute with Mane and Firmino early in the second-half
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who made his first league start since September, celebrates Mane’s opener in the 49th minute
Another assist for Liverpool’s fullbacks and another goal for Mane. Palace almost responded instantly as the skies darkened over south London. First, Townsend tested Alisson with a shot from outside the box before Milivojevic tried his luck with two of his own.
But it was Liverpool who came closest to the game’s second goal. Shortly after the hour mark, the tireless Roberton exchanged passes with substitute Divock Origi and fed Firmino, whose poked shot was well saved by Guaita.
At the other end, Alisson was so nearly beaten by Jeffrey Schlupp’s low strike before Christian Benteke’s bicycle kick went wide. Eventually Zaha did equalise after fine work from Townsend.
Briefly, it seemed Roy Hodgson, the man whose disastrous reign is held up as evidence of how far Liveprool have come in the last decade, would be the man to frustrate them.
But this Liverpool side don’t know when they are beaten.
Virgil van Dijk turned a late corner towards goal, prompting a goalmouth scramble. No one could clear it and then Firmino curled home from close range.
Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson celebrates in front of the away end after the match – a 12th win out of 13 for the Reds
Jurgen Klopp will be happy with the result if not the performance after another victory following the international break