Liverpool gave their hopes of challenging for the Premier League title a boost as they mixed early class with late resilience to hold off Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
Less than 24 hours after league leaders Manchester City dropped points for the first time since October, Jurgen Klopp’s side were sharp and ruthless early on to take the game away from their hosts.
The intensity of their press and crisp use of the ball overwhelmed Palace and Virgil van Dijk rose to deliver a bullet header for their opener before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain finished a sweeping team move for their second.
Palace, though, eventually offered moments of warning, with Liverpool keeper Alisson forced to save well from Michael Olise and Jean-Philippe Mateta before Conor Gallagher glanced a header wide with the opening attack of the second half.
They finally broke through when the ever-willing Mateta raced onto Jeffrey Schlupp’s superb through ball and unselfishly squared for Odsonne Edouard to tap into an empty net.
It prompted nervy moments for Klopp’s side as Joachim Andersen drilled an effort wide and Olise went close with a late lob.
But Fabinho whipped home a penalty after Diogo Jota was felled in the box and a spot-kick was awarded after VAR suggested referee Kevin Friend should revise his initial decision.
It secured the victory for Klopp’s side, who have managed to take maximum league points from the fixtures missed by key forwards Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane while they play in the Africa Cup of Nations.