Firmino strikes late as Liverpool snatch 2-1 win at Palace
LONDON (Reuters) - Liverpool continued a seemingly relentless push for their first league title since 1990 after a late goal by Roberto Firmino gave them a scrappy 2-1 win at Crystal Palace on Saturday.
The result extended Liverpool's unbeaten Premier League run to 30 games stretching back to last season as they stayed top of the table, eight points ahead of closest rivals Leicester City who were 2-0 winners at Brighton & Hove Albion.
Firmino struck from close range in the 85th minute, shortly after Wilfried Zaha cancelled out Sadio Mane's opener for the visitors who had looked toothless in the first half with Mohamed Salah on the bench nursing a sore ankle.
Although Liverpool were far from impressive, they ground out yet another late win as the Merseyside club again demonstrated the kind of resilience they have often lacked in previous campaigns.
Liverpool Manager Juergen Klopp acknowledged it was a hard-earned win but praised his team's pragmatic if unspectacular display.
"We know it's tough place to come to and we weren't compact enough in the firsy half," he told a news conference.
"At halftime we knew we had to improve. I have no problem that we weren't brilliant today because in a game like this you have to make sure you are ready to fight for the result.
"Could we have played better? Yes. But we never take a result at Palace for granted, so it feels good.
"We are not out there to show that we invented football because we didn't. We have a job to do and hopefully we can continue."
Jordan Ayew and Gary Cahill missed chances for Palace before the home side had a 43rd-minute effort ruled out by VAR, the replay showing Ayew had pushed Dejan Lovren before James Tomkins headed the ball in at the far post.
The visitors looked sharper immediately after the break, with Mane firing wide before he netted a 49th-minute goal with a scrambled shot which goalkeeper Vicente Guaita got a hand to but could not keep out.
Guaita kept out a Firmino sitter and former Liverpool striker Christian Benteke fired inches wide with an acrobatic volley at the other end before Zaha equalised in the 82nd minute with a crisp low shot from 12 metres.
The home team's joy was short-lived, however, as Firmino popped up to tuck the ball away from close range after Palace failed to clear the danger from a goalmouth scramble.
Zaha missed a gilt-edged chance to salvage a point for Palace in stoppage time when he blazed a volley over the bar from eight metres after being left unmarked at the far post.
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ed Osmond and Tony Lawrence)