Liverpool’s hopes of securing a top-four finish look to be all but over as they were held to a 1-1 draw in their final home game of the season.
Aston Villa were handed the opportunity to take the lead inside the opening 20 minutes, Ollie Watkins getting in behind the Liverpool defence before being brought down by Ibrahima Kounate. Watkins stepped up to take the resulting penalty, though the in-form forward fluffed his lines and sent his effort wide.
The Villains did go in front before the half-hour mark though, Douglas Luiz putting in a fantastic delivery towards the back post, before Jacob Ramsey fired home from a narrow-angle with a well-taken finish.
Liverpool looked really off the boil in the first half, though they thought they had dragged themselves level nine minutes into the second half, only for Cody Gakpo’s close-range effort to be chalked off for an offside in the buildup.
The Reds were better in the second half, and at least asked some questions of Unai Emery’s side, though the visitors were organised at the back as they looked to keep hold of their lead.
However, in the 90th minute, Liverpool did find an equaliser that kept their faint Champions League hopes alive, Roberto Firmino – making his final Anfield appearance – prodding home Mohamed Salah’s outside-of-the-boot cross.
Roberto Firmino has now scored 110 goals for Liverpool. Mohamed Salah (186) is the only current player with more.
A fond farewell. 👋 pic.twitter.com/TczFR2f4bL
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) May 20, 2023
There were 10 minutes of added time, though the Reds were unable to find a winner, and speaking after the game, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp – who was forced to sit in the stands – was pleased with his side’s character, but admitted none of his side put in a top performance.
“Frustrating wherever you sit. We made it a proper fight – chasing the Champions League in general. They got more points. We would have loved to have made it exciting for another week but we couldn’t do that,” he told BBC Sport.
“I asked the boys after the game, who was really, really good today? It was difficult to find one. But the character we showed was good. Aston Villa were screwed in the second half and they didn’t know how to deal with it.”
Asked about his thoughts on his side’s disallowed goal, he said: “I spoke to the referee, he said it is a subjective decision. He said it’s not deliberate, I said it was.”
The German refused to blame Aston Villa’s time wasting as a reason for the result, but suggested it was an increasing issue across the game.
“The time wasting was… wow,” he said. “We saw against Sevilla the ball boys left the country, Roma against Leverkusen, how long was the ball in play?
“Ten minutes [added time] was fine, but we should have an extra five minutes within the 10. Everybody is doing it. We have seen in too many games this season, it has nothing to do with the result today, just a general football subject.”
Roberto Firmino and James Milner made their final Anfield appearances for the club, and Klopp said the pair will both be missed: “Both contributions of Milly and Bobby was crazy. We saw what we will miss. That is how it is. It is a story we wrote together, now we have to write a new story and they have to write a new story.
“We have to step up leadership-wise without Milly. Bobby is Bobby. I will miss all of them. It is better we all feel really bad that they leave than happy.”
Manchester United and Newcastle now need just one point from their remaining two games to secure their places in the Champions League, though Klopp said he is ‘absolutely fine’ with playing Europa League football next season.
“We will make it [the Europa League] our competition. I am not that spoilt,” he said.
“That we are already qualified for the Europa League is incredible with all these teams around us. That’s really difficult and we did it, that is good. For so long we couldn’t even hear the sound of the Champions League, that’s how far away we were. The Europe League is absolutely fine. Let’s see what we can do.”
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