Reds eventually stroll to a 3-0 win over Middlesbrough at Anfield to confirm a top four finish…
Liverpool will be in the Champions League for only a second time in eight seasons next term after a final day victory over relegated Middlesbrough consolidated their fourth spot in the Premier League.
The three points rendered 10-man Arsenal’s 3-1 victory over Everton immaterial, meaning the Gunners fail to qualify for European football’s elite club competition for a first time since 1997/98.
Jürgen Klopp‘s men will still need to come through a potentially tricky play-off in August to reach the Group Stage though after Manchester City thrashed Watford 5-0 to claim third in the table and automatic progression.
A positive outcome looked in doubt for much of the first half at Anfield with a resolute Boro holding out the Reds whilst both Arsenal and City strolled into comfortable early leads.
The visitors even had a strong penalty appeal waved away when Patrick Bamford went to ground after getting on the wrong side of Dejan Lovren.
Nerves were finally calmed on the stroke of half-time when Georginio Wijnaldum fired home following a lovely through-ball by Roberto Firmino.
The goal transformed the hosts and they scored twice more during the opening exchanges of the second half via a Philippe Coutinho free-kick and Adam Lallana‘s neat finish at the end of a swift counter-attack.
More goals should have followed as both players and supporters began to express themselves safe in the knowledge that their three-goal advantage was more than enough against an increasingly demoralised Boro.
“I’m really proud of the boys,” analysed Klopp at his post-match press conference. “They did well. It was a good start in the game and [then] it became a little bit more stiff. If you don’t score in these few moments, you get a bit more stiff, you feel the intensity of all the ways.
“Middlesbrough defended deep – that’s absolutely OK – we had not good timing and then we scored this one goal but the main target was to defend better in the second half, because we thought pretty much each long ball was half a counter-attack – that makes no sense when you have the ball 90 per cent.
“That was the thing we wanted to change, plus better timing in all our movements because we had the right positions but in the wrong moment.
“After the second goal, I think everybody could see how good we can be and it was never easy, but it looked then very good. That’s probably what everybody wished before we started today and now we have it and we should celebrate it.”
Liverpool’s final points tally of 76 is one they’ve only bettered on four occasions in the 25 seasons since the launch of the Premier League.
Discussing the campaign as a whole, and looking ahead to next term, Klopp added: “We showed today that we deserve this position. 76 points, that’s an outstanding number.
“We all know what happened in January [when Liverpool won just one of nine games and exited both domestic cup competitions]; I’m not sure all of us agree why, but the explanation is injuries and too many games.
“We cannot change this, it happened, then the problem in February was that we suffered from the games in January, but then in March we were back on track and got to 76 points, so that’s it.
“That’s the base we created, we learned a lot in this year about ourselves, so we can use it…
“Liverpool needs to be there [in the Champions League] consistently. I love the perspective, I would not say we’re already in because qualification is qualification but we’re already looking forward to it.
“We will be really strong and we will really fight for it because we want to be there and it’s all good. It’s a fantastic competition and I think in the last 10 years Liverpool was not part of it too often, three years ago once only maybe.
“We should try everything to change this, we have to make steps and the step for us to be around the best teams in the world because we are one of the best clubs.”
Before embarking on their summer holidays, Liverpool’s staff and players will now travel to Australia for a lucrative end-of-season friendly against Sydney FC on Wednesday.
So that’s what both us and Klopp thought about the game, how about you? Let us know your views below…
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