London (AFP) – Liverpool kept hopes of a Premier League title race alive as a 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace narrowed the gap on leaders Manchester City to nine points, while Arsenal missed the chance to break into the top four after being held 0-0 by Burnley.
Jurgen Klopp’s men also have a game in hand to come over the champions and face City in April with the chance to close the gap further.
As Liverpool return to the Premier League field, they should be bolstered by the return of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane from their international duties at the Africa Cup of Nations.
The visitors showed no sign of missing their talismans as they blasted Palace in the first half hour.
Virgil van Dijk’s imposing header from Andy Robertson’s corner opened the scoring just eight minutes into the game.
Robertson was the creator again when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain doubled Liverpool’s lead with a calm finish.
However, Palace served as a warning of what was to come in the second half before the break as Alisson Becker had to make fine saves from Michael Olise and Jean-Philippe Mateta to keep the Eagles at bay.
The Brazilian deployed brilliantly to deny Odsonne Edouard’s backheel, while Conor Gallagher failed to turn Olise’s dangerous cross into a searing start to the hosts’ second half.
Palace finally got their reward with a brilliant shot as Jeffrey Schlupp and Mateta assisted Edouard for a tap-in.
Alisson was once again needed to keep his team ahead and roll back Olise’s inventive lob.
But Liverpool’s two-goal cushion was restored in controversial circumstances a minute from when a penalty was awarded after a lengthy VAR intervention for Vicente Guaita’s block on Diogo Jota.
Fabinho sent Guaita the wrong way to seal the points to Klopp’s relief.
The failed gunners
Arsenal failed to bounce back from their League Cup semi-final loss to Liverpool in midweek as Mikel Arteta’s men were left frustrated by a Burnley side who failed to play a game in championship since January 2.
The Clarets have up to four games in hand over some of their relegation rivals and have given their survival hopes a huge boost despite remaining bottom of the table.
Nick Pope kept the Gunners at bay despite over 75% possession and 20 shots on goal.
Arsenal sit sixth but are two points behind fourth-placed Manchester United.
Tottenham also have the chance to break into the top four when they travel to Chelsea later on Sunday.
Leicester’s hopes for European football next season received a blow as they conceded twice in stoppage time to lose to Spurs in midweek.
Brendan Rodgers’ men were again guilty of losing a lead as Brighton earned a third successive 1-1 draw.
Patson Daka fired home on the rebound after Robert Sanchez saved from Harvey Barnes in the opening minute of the second half.
But Brighton equalized eight minutes from time when Danny Welbeck headed in Neal Maupay’s cross.
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