By Ian Chadband
LONDON (Reuters) – Liverpool continued their compelling push for the Premier League title as a Mohamed Salah double saw them repel a severe challenge from Crystal Palace to win a remarkable game 4-3 at Anfield and stretch their lead at the top to seven points.
As Manchester United continued their stirring revival under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who enjoyed a record seventh straight win at the start of his caretaker reign with a 2-1 win over Brighton & Hove Albion, Palace were threatening the shock of the day.
Andros Townsend, who had also struck a glorious goal in their startling win at Manchester City in December, had given the Eagles a first-half lead, offering them the prospect of their fourth win in five visits to Anfield.
Salah and Roberto Firmino struck after the break but Palace equalised with a James Tomkins header and it needed Salah to extend his league-leading tally to 16 goals, after a wretched error by Palace’s recalled 39-year-old keeper Julian Speroni, to restore the lead.
Even after James Milner was sent off for a second yellow card foul and Sadio Mane made it 4-2, Palace pulled one back through Max Meyer and Liverpool were relieved to extend their unbeaten league home run to 32 matches.
The hard-earned victory had a potentially pivotal feel, leaving Juergen Klopp’s side on 60 points from 23 games, seven clear of Manchester City, who had lost 3-2 at home to Palace.
Pep Guardiola’s champions must now play catch-up again by winning at bottom club Huddersfield Town on Sunday.
Solskjaer broke the great Matt Busby’s club record by winning his first six league matches in charge — and seven in all — as the Norwegian’s perfect start continued with goals from Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford.
It meant Solskjaer equalled the longest winning streak by a manager from the beginning of his reign at a club in the Premier League era — six by Carlo Ancelotti, for Chelsea in 2009, and Guardiola for Man City in 2016.
It put United in a provisional fifth place before sixth-placed Arsenal hosted fourth-placed Chelsea in the day’s late match at the Emirates Stadium.
At the other end of the table, Newcastle United leapfrogged Cardiff City to push the Welsh club back into the relegation zone after a 3-0 win at St James’ Park that featured a double from Fabian Schar, his first goals for the club.
Anfield was not the only venue for a seven-goal thriller as Molineux witnessed an amazing mid-table Midlands duel with Diogo Jota scoring a stoppage-time winner for Wolverhampton Wanderers to complete his hat-trick and earn a 4-3 victory over Leicester City.
After repelling two Leicester comebacks, from 2-0 and 3-2 down, with captain Wes Morgan’s header looking to have earned the Foxes a 3-3 draw, Jota’s clincher made Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo so delirious that he raced on to the pitch, celebrated with his players and was promptly sent off.
“I tried to avoid going inside the pitch but it is clear and I was sent off for it — and that was the right decision,” said Nuno afterwards.
Southampton also eased their relegation fears under their inspiring new manager Ralph Hasenhuettl, holding on for a deserved 2-1 win over Everton at St Mary’s.
Bournemouth beat West Ham United, who left out unsettled striker Marko Arnautovic as he seeks a move away from the club, with a fine goal from Callum Wilson, his 11th in all competitions for the Cherries this term, in their 2-0 win at the Vitality Stadium.
(Reporting by Ian Chadband; Editing by Christian Radnedge)