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Liverpool close gap on Manchester City with victory at Crystal Palace

The Reds needed goalkeeper Alisson Becker to be on top form in south London.

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Virgil Van Dijk puts Liverpool ahead at Crystal Palace (Adam Davy/PA)

Virgil Van Dijk puts Liverpool ahead at Crystal Palace (Adam Davy/PA)

Virgil Van Dijk puts Liverpool ahead at Crystal Palace (Adam Davy/PA)

Liverpool reduced the gap at the top of the Premier League table to nine points after a hard-fought 3-1 win at Crystal Palace.

Two Andrew Robertson assists helped the Reds take control with Virgil Van Dijk and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on target in the first half but Patrick Vieira’s side eventually woke up and reduced the deficit through Odsonne Edouard at the start of the second period.

In the end it took a string of saves by Alisson Becker to earn the win with Fabinho adding a contentious penalty late on to confirm the victory, which keeps the title race alive after Manchester City dropped points on Saturday.

This was Liverpool’s fifth game without Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane this month and second in the capital within a matter of days after Thursday’s win at Arsenal sent them through to the Carabao Cup final.

Jurgen Klopp’s side had good memories of last season’s fixture at Selhurst Park and even though the German declared the 7-0 thrashing a freak result, he could have been forgiven for thinking history might repeat itself when the visitors took the lead in the eighth minute.

Set-pieces had proved costly for Palace in the Anfield meeting in September and it was an Andrew Robertson’s corner which created the opener this time after his cross was powered home by Van Dijk.

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Virgil Van Dijk celebrates the opening goal (Adam Davy/PA)

Virgil Van Dijk celebrates the opening goal (Adam Davy/PA)

Virgil Van Dijk celebrates the opening goal (Adam Davy/PA)

It was a poor goal for the hosts to give away and they could not handle Liverpool’s relentless pressing in the opening exchanges with Oxlade-Chamberlain firing off target twice in quick succession to keep the deficit at one.

Fabinho was the next to be wasteful for Liverpool after he side-footed over from Diogo Jota’s lay-off in the 25th minute.

Patrick Vieira’s team were still waiting to have a legitimate shot by this point, after an earlier effort by Jean-Philippe Mateta was deemed offside, and things went from bad to worse with 32 minutes played.

After Liverpool switched play in rapid fashion, Robertson spotted the late run of Oxlade-Chamberlain into the area and picked out his team-mate with a superb crossfield ball.

The Reds midfielder, back after a minor ankle injury, controlled on his chest and rifled in with aplomb to put the away side firmly in control.

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It did finally jolt Palace into action though and they started to cause problems towards the end of the half but Michael Olise was denied by Alisson before the Brazilian got the faintest of touches to thwart Mateta.

Half-time failed to interrupt the Eagles’ momentum and Conor Gallagher should have halved the lead straight after the restart but headed wide with the goal gaping after superb play by Olise.

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Conor Gallagher came close to getting Palace back into the game (John Walton/PA)

Conor Gallagher came close to getting Palace back into the game (John Walton/PA)

Conor Gallagher came close to getting Palace back into the game (John Walton/PA)

Minutes later and Olise was involved again as Alisson saved a close-range back heel from Edouard.

Jordan Henderson could have put the game to bed soon after but he fired wide on the turn after another fine Robertson delivery.

It felt significant two minutes later when Palace did finally get on the scoresheet in the 55th minute.

This time Mateta beat the offside trap to collect Jeffrey Schlupp’s excellent through ball and unselfishly squared for his strike partner Edouard to tap in for his sixth goal of the season.

Joachim Andersen was the next to go close for Palace with a long-range strike that whizzed just wide before Schlupp fired into the side-netting.

The big moment arrived with seven minutes left when Andersen sent Olise away and his lobbed effort was brilliantly tipped wide by Alisson, who clattered into the post.

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Fabinho celebrates Liverpool’s third (PA)

Fabinho celebrates Liverpool’s third (PA)

Fabinho celebrates Liverpool’s third (PA)

Minutes later and Jota went through one on one, but missed his kick and then collided into Vicente Guaita.

After referee Kevin Friend had waved away appeals, VAR called for the official to have another look and he duly pointed to the spot.

Fabinho tucked away the penalty with a minute left to close the gap on City to nine points with Pep Guardiola’s side having also played a game more than Liverpool, who visit the Etihad in April.

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