Liverpool beat Wolverhampton Wanderers by 3-1 at Anfield on Sunday in the final round of the Premier League campaign, but as it turned out, it wasn’t enough for them to triumph over defending champions Manchester City in the title race.
Wolves took the lead in the third minute as Raul Jimenez escaped an offside trap to latch onto a long pass from the back, and pulled out to the right before crossing low into the path of Pedro Neto.
Bruno Lage’s team was obviously well-drilled tactically, defending with five men in the back line and keeping the lines close, and looking to exploit the space behind Liverpool’s fullbacks as both Jimenez and Neto constantly drifted wide while Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho sought the two forwards with long passes. Leander Dendocker would then run into the box through the middle as an added threat, and the versatile Belgian could have easily added a second for the visitors soon after Neto’s opener.
However, it was nothing new for Liverpool to concede first. This team has shown extreme levels of resilience before, and even with the score standing at 0-1, there was little doubt among their fans that the three points would remain at Anfield. And with 63% possession and a total of 29 shots taken compared to Wolves’ seven, it would’ve been surprising indeed if anything else happened. Mane took advantage of a brilliant Thiago Alcantara heel flick to burst through and equalize in the 24th minute. However, just six minutes remained on the clock when Mohamed Salah guided the ball through the legs of Conor Coady and into the net from close range, before Andy Robertson scored Liverpool’s third to seal the win in the 89th.
Going into the match, even the most die-hard Liverpool fan would’ve admitted winning the Premier League title looked unlikely, given that City were ahead by a point and about to host Aston Villa at the Etihad. But as Villa, commended by Liverpool icon Steven Gerrard, went 0-1 ahead, and then 0-2, hope obviously rose through the roof. It didn’t matter much that Liverpool still weren’t ahead in their own fixture; there was still plenty of time.
It therefore came as a complete shock and disappointment that City needed just five minutes in the second half to turn their game on its head by scoring three goals. In the end, Liverpool did what they had to do, but so did City. The quadruple remained fabled, a holy grail as much as the Champions League trophy for the still reigning Premier League champions.
As referee Anthony Taylor blew the final whistle, the players in Red didn’t exactly look ecstatic about their win, which actually brought about a new remarkable achievement; Liverpool have now avoided losing a Premier League match at home in four of the last five seasons.
The Champions League
The woe of not becoming the champions of England may yet get crushed to smithereens by joy before the season is truly over. The biggest trophy on offer in club football is still out there to be won, and Klopp’s men will fancy themselves against Real Madrid much more now than the last time these teams met in that exact fixture. It was a notorious match in which Real defender Sergio Ramos escaped punishment for two red card offences as Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale (twice) struck to win Real’s last European crown to date, their 13th in total.
Liverpool won it the following year, having just finished one point behind Manchester City in a thrilling Premier League race. Sounds familiar?
The worries the Merseysiders face right now is the fitness of a few important players. Fabinho missed the last three matches through a hamstring issue but should be ready for the Paris trip. Centre-back Virgil van Dijk should also be back in contention, having been rested after picking up a minor problem in the FA Cup final.
Meanwhile, the extent of injury suffered on Sunday by Thiago Alcantara is yet to be seen. The Spain international was forced to make way for James Milner at halftime.
From this point on, it’s all about the Champions League final for Liverpool. Klopp’s “mentality monsters” have shown many times that they bounce back from disappointment very quickly, and though Real managed to hurt and knock City out in the semis, they might find themselves facing quite a different prospect this Saturday.
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