Jurgen Klopp accepted it was a “massive relief” to see leaders Liverpool edge a thrilling Premier League clash with Crystal Palace 4-3 at Anfield.
Liverpool were 1-0 down at half-time to Andros Townsend’s goal as Roy Hodgson’s Palace threatened to have another major impact on the title race following the Eagles’ win at Manchester City last month.
A breathless start to the second half saw Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino capitalise on deflections before a James Tomkins header levelled the scores again.
Salah’s 50th Premier League goal then came thanks to a woeful piece of goalkeeping by Julian Speroni and, after James Milner’s red card, Sadio Mane gave the Reds breathing space before Max Meyer’s injury-time consolation.
It all added up to Liverpool moving seven points clear of champions City, who play at managerless Huddersfield Town on Sunday, with Klopp celebrating wildly at the full-time whistle.
“It’s a massive relief,” the Liverpool manager said to BBC Sport. “We knew for different reasons the game would be difficult. Crystal Palace traditionally do well against Liverpool and with the physicality it was clear it would be like the first half was.
“They are really good at counter-attacks and set-pieces, Wilfried Zaha is a world-class player and he gets into a one-on-one situation and we’re one down. We had to stay positive, being one down is not a massive blow, we just needed to win the second half and did what we had to do.
“The result is massive, we have 60 points now it’s crazy, it’s an important number. I’m really proud, a few things happened that we don’t really need, we’re a bit short now on players but we have a few days and need to use the time now for recovery.”
Salah’s brace means he reached 50 Premier League goals in his 72nd appearance, with only three players in the competition’s history having been faster to the milestone.
“He’s world class,” Klopp said of the Egypt superstar. “Simply world class.”
Salah himself insisted Liverpool deserved to take all three points, although he conceded allowing Palace to score three goals was far from ideal.
“Honestly we expected a difficult game but they played well and they were compact in front of the box,” Salah said to Sky Sports.
“In the end the most important thing is the result, conceding three goals is hard but we need to accept that and live with it.
“We have to be strong mentally. This is a tough time for us and we have to talk and be strong. We played well today and deserved the game.”