Lovren hero and vil­lain as Liver­pool keep pace

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screwed his shot over af­ter some pin­ball in the Al­bion box. West Brom should have scored in the 72nd minute but Ron­don mis­cued from six yards out af­ter James Mc­Clean broke down the left and crossed low into the box. City ended any faint hopes of a Bag­gies come­back 11 min­utes from time when Aguero pro­duced a lovely dink over the de­fence to beat the off­side trap for Gun­do­gan to slot home. — AFP

Liver­pool kept pace with Pre­mier League top two Manch­ester City and Arse­nal with a dra­matic 4-2 suc­cess at Crys­tal Palace yes­ter­day.

A breath­less first half saw both sides take ad­van­tage of de­fen­sive er­rors, with Palace twice lev­el­ling through James McArthur af­ter Liver­pool took the lead with goals from Emre Can and De­jan Lovren. Joel Matip’s 44th-minute header gave the visi­tors a half­time ad­van­tage and Roberto Firmino’s sec­ond-half ef­fort se­cured a win that left Jur­gen Klopp’s men be­hind City and Arse­nal on goal dif­fer­ence. While the Merseysiders’ vi­brant dis­play show­cased their at­tack­ing tal­ents — as­sisted by a gen­er­ous Palace de­fence-lapses at the back again raised ques­tions about their abil­ity to sus­tain their ti­tle chal­lenge. Liver­pool have kept just one clean sheet in 10 league games this sea­son and Lovren’s fail­ings in par­tic­u­lar com­pli­cated what should have been a rou­tine vic­tory.

But if Klopp had rea­son to be frus­trated about el­e­ments of his side’s dis­play, Palace man­ager Alan Pardew had even more grounds for com­plaint. The hosts’ porous­ness meant that even when they twice came back to level, they never looked like kick­ing on to record what would have been only a sixth league win in 2016.

Ini­tially the game had the look of an un­even con­test when a typ­i­cally in­ci­sive move, or­ches­trated by Philippe Coutinho, brought about Can’s open­ing goal af­ter 16 min­utes. Coutinho picked out left-back Al­berto Moreno, whose volleyed cross was turned home by Can with a first-time shot from 10 yards. Al­ready things looked bleak for Pardew’s side, but within two min­utes they were gifted a route back into the game.

A long clear­ance by Palace goal­keeper Steve Man­danda was headed on by for­mer Liver­pool striker Chris­tian Ben­teke. The flick should have been dealt with com­fort­ably by Liver­pool’s cen­tre-backs, but Matip squared for Lovren, whose mishit, loop­ing pass al­lowed McArthur to nip in and head the ball over the ad­vanc­ing Loris Kar­ius.

That was the first time Palace had threat­ened and should have given the home side the chance to set­tle into the game. In­stead, they were un­done in sim­i­larly rou­tine fash­ion in the 21st minute when Lovren made amends for his er­ror by eas­ily rising above Palace skip­per Scott Dann to head past Man­danda from Coutinho’s cor­ner. Both man­agers were al­ready fum­ing at their side’s mis­takes and there was worse to come for Klopp, who saw his side pegged back once again 11 min­utes later with Lovren once again the weak link. The move was fa­mil­iar: a ball lifted to­wards Ben­teke, whose headed flick found Wil­fried Zaha wide on the right.

When the winger de­liv­ered a cross to­wards the near post Lovren was flat-footed and McArthur nipped ahead of him to head home. For­tu­nately for Klopp’s side they were fac­ing an equally vul­ner­a­ble side whose de­fence ap­peared on the point of col­lapse when­ever threat­ened. — AFP

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