Liverpool came from behind to defeat Wolves but missed out the Premier League title by one point after Manchester City staged a stunning comeback against Aston Villa.
The Reds fell behind just three minutes into the match as Raul Jimenez and Pedro Neto combined to punish a defensive misjudgment from Ibrahima Konate, with the latter tapping in from close range. But Sadio Mane was on hand to haul the hosts level midway through the first half after a brilliant flick from Thiago.
It took until the 84th minute for Liverpool to find a second goal as Mohamed Salah bundled the ball over the line from close range. Andy Robertson then sealed victory in the 89th minute but the three points were not enough to secure domestic title number 20.
News trickled into Anfield that City had come from two goals down to lead Villa 3-2 moments before Salah scored the decisive goal, all but ending Liverpool’s title chances. Earlier in the game, there were incredible celebrations as Reds supporters heard Matty Cash and Philippe Coutinho had scored for Steven Gerrard’s side.
However, it was not to be for Jurgen Klopp and Co., who never topped the table despite City losing at home for 78 minutes. Having fallen just short in the title race, Liverpool can still end the season with three trophies as they take on Real Madrid in the Champions League final next Saturday.
Here are five talking points from a gripping evening on Merseyside.
1. Wolves bite first
Ahead of the final day of the season, Liverpool fans could be forgiven for being preoccupied with the fixture at the Etihad and the romance of Steven Gerrard potentially doing them a title favour. As it happened, that likely played right into Wolves’ hands, taking the pressure and spotlight off them going into their trip to Merseyside.
Within three minutes, the party atmosphere in Anfield was momentarily silenced as Pedro Neto tapped in from Raul Jimenez’s square pass, punishing Ibrahima Konate for misjudging goalkeeper Jose Sa’s hoof. The goal served as a timely reminder of Liverpool’s vulnerability when teams aim exploit their high line without Virgil van Dijk in the side to mop up the danger with his reading of the game and supreme pace.
There was another example of this shortly before half-time, when Alisson was called on to make a brilliant save after Jonny’s clipped long ball found Hwang Hee-chan. The forward – who replaced the injured Neto – went to roll the ball in at the near post but the Brazil No. 1 was able to turn the shot around the post.
2. Colombian catalyst
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As has so often been the way in recent weeks, Luis Diaz was the brightest and most-threatening player wearing red, fashioning a number of chances as the Reds aimed to respond instantly to falling behind. The best of these came as he was played in-behind by Joel Matip, forcing Jose Sa into a fine stop.
Moments later, the Colombian was tantalisingly close to setting up Diogo Jota with a cut-back from the byline which narrowly missed his teammate. Diaz oozed confidence on the left flank and had a field day exploiting the space between Wolves centre-back Willy Boly and wing-back Jonny.
The winger was often the target for Trent Alexander-Arnold’s diagonal passes and crosses, too, and Sa was required to make a number of routine but crucial catches to thwart him.
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3. Thiago trickery
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The equaliser had been coming and Liverpool were once again grateful for the majestic touch of Thiago in midfield as they drew level in the 24th minute. The Spaniard received the ball from Ibrahima Konate in the attacking third and produced a sublime, instinctive flick to nutmeg the Wolves defender marking him and find Sadio Mane.
Liverpool’s in-form No. 10 took one touch to steady himself and converted at the near post with his left foot to cap a period of intense pressure from the hosts. Liverpool had chances to take the lead before the half-time whistle, too, with Luis Diaz and Thiago unleashing shots from range but failing to trouble Jose Sa.
While another Liverpool goal seemed to be on the way, they were dealt a major blow at the end of the first half as Thiago trudged off injured – a major cause for concern ahead of the Champions League final. Jurgen Klopp did not send on a replacement, so the hosts saw out the remaining seconds before the break with 10 men before James Milner emerged for the second half. Wolves also made a change at the interval as John Ruddy came on for Sa, who had been struggling with a knock.
4. Anfield erupts
Even louder than the celebrations of Sadio Mane’s equaliser was the noise generated by news of Aston Villa taking the lead at Manchester City towards the end of the first half. What started as a ripple midway up Anfield’s palatial Main Stand soon turned into full-blown partying as if the hosts had scored another goal.
Speaking of which, Liverpool thought they had taken the lead shortly after half-time but Sadio Mane’s dink from Diogo Jota’s through-ball was ruled out for offside. The disallowed goal was sandwiched in-between two penalty appeals with both teams aggrieved not to have been awarded a spot kick.
The first incident came as Willy Boly appeared to be pushed by Ibrahima Konate as a threatening Wolves free kick was delivered from the left. The second saw Mane go down during a chaotic sequence in the visitors’ penalty area after appearing to be clattered by Conor Coady. Anthony Taylor saw nothing wrong with either incident and play was waved on.
Just as Matty Cash prompted huge celebrations at Anfield in the first half, Philippe Coutinho prompted another extraordinary reaction by doubling Villa’s lead in the second half.
5. Super-sub Salah
With a Champions League final six days after the Premier League conclusion, Jurgen Klopp took no chances with top goalscorer Mohamed Salah and defensive stalwart Virgil van Dijk. The duo picked up minor injuries in the FA Cup final and sat out the midweek victory over Southampton.
As mentioned, Liverpool struggled defensively in Van Dijk’s absence but it was Salah who came on just before the hour mark as the Reds’ search for a second goal became increasingly frantic. The Egyptian should have given the hosts the lead in the 68th minute but was denied by a vital Willy Boly tackle when almost through on goal.
Liverpool had plenty of chances to claim a potentially title-winning three points as they tore through their visitors on the counter-attack but failed to piece together the final pass. Roberto Firmino came on for Naby Keita with 20 minutes remaining and was guilty of under-hitting a pass to Salah when Liverpool had a huge numbers advantage on the break.
Wolves had their chances to snatch a winner, too, and Alisson put his body on the line to deny Leander Dendoncker as the visitors broke. But it was Liverpool who struck through Salah in the 84th minute after fine work from Joel Matip following a corner, with Andy Robertson then sealing the win for the hosts five minutes later.