HomeSportLiverpool, Chelsea make Champions League at the death

Liverpool, Chelsea make Champions League at the death


LONDON — Liverpool salvaged Champions League football from a chaotic season undermined by a succession of serious injuries and a catastrophic run of home form after the turn of the year with victory over Crystal Palace at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp’s side never threatened to retain their Premier League title and fell timidly to Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-final, but Liverpool rallied to win their final five Premier League games — including that remarkable last-gasp header by keeper Alisson at West Bromwich Albion — to claim a prize that looked unlikely since the turn of the year.

Liverpool got the result they needed against Palace, with manager Roy Hodgson taking charge for the final time, as Sadio Mane poked home from a corner nine minutes before half-time to ease early anxieties.

The Senegal forward wrapped up victory and that coveted Champions League place with a deflected shot in the 74th minute.

Chelsea secured a place in next season’s Champions League despite losing to Aston Villa, Thomas Tuchel’s side sealing a top-four spot ahead of Leicester City.

The Blues had started the final day of the Premier League season in third spot, knowing victory over their mid-table opponents would guarantee a place in the group stages of Europe’s prestigious knockout club competition.

Tuchel’s side carved out the better chances but fell behind when Bertrand Traore’s attempt went in off the underside of the crossbar following Matt Targett’s corner.

It went from bad to worse for Chelsea when Edouard Mendy was injured, making him a doubt for next Saturday’s Champions League final with Manchester City. Substitute keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga was beaten by Anwar El Ghazi’s second-half penalty after former Chelsea player Traore was fouled by Jorginho, before Ben Chilwell pulled one back for the visitors from close range.

Chelsea finished the game with 10 men after captain Cesar Azpilicueta’s straight red card for a foul on Jack Grealish, but Leicester’s home defeat by Tottenham means Tuchel’s side finish the season in fourth on 67 points — one more than fifth-placed Leicester.

Leicester were denied a place in the Champions League for the second season running on a dramatic final day in the Premier League with Gareth Bale scoring two late goals to give Tottenham victory.

Starting the last round of fixtures in fifth place, the Foxes knew that their best hope of finishing in the top four was a win, while hoping that Liverpool and Chelsea slipped up in their respective final games.

Chelsea did leave the door open, losing 2-1 at Aston Villa, but Leicester were unable to do their part, falling to defeat at the King Power Stadium despite leading twice to finish a point behind Thomas Tuchel’s Blues.

It was Bale who hammered in the final nails, finishing low into the bottom corner to put Spurs ahead in the game for the first time in the 87th minute, before following up his own shot that had hit the post to add a second in added time.

In truth, though, it was on own goal from Kasper Schmeichel that really ripped the heart out of City’s challenge, with the keeper punching a corner into his own net under pressure to make the score 2-2 with 14 minutes left.

West Ham clinched sixth place in the Premier League — and a spot in next season’s Europa League group stage — after comfortably beating Southampton in front of 10 000 supporters at London Stadium.

David Moyes’ side needed only a draw to guarantee a top-six finish, but Pablo Fornals’ first-half brace ensured the Hammers end a superb campaign on 65 points — their highest tally in the top flight.

Fornals opened the scoring against the run of play, firing into an empty net after Alex McCarthy had steered Jarrod Bowen’s goal-bound effort into his path on the edge of the six-yard area.

Declan Rice completed the scoring late on with a composed finish from Fornals’ clipped pass.

Southampton finish the campaign in 15th after suffering their 19th league defeat of the season.

Nicolas Pepe scored twice in the second half as Arsenal beat Brighton, only to be denied a place in Europe by Tottenham’s fightback against Leicester.

A strong finish to the season moved the Gunners within a point of their north London rivals heading into the final day, and with Arsenal cruising after Pepe’s double, the 10 000 fans returning to Emirates Stadium thought they were set to snatch seventh place from Spurs.

Despite finishing the season with a fifth straight win, Arsenal were condemned to an eighth-placed finish as Tottenham clinched a 4-2 victory at Leicester. That result ends the Gunners’ record of playing in Europe every season since 1995-96 and means they have not finished above Tottenham since 2016.

Wolves were unable to give manager Nuno Espirito Santo the winning send-off they craved as they ended the Premier League season with defeat by Manchester United.

Four and a half thousand Wolves fans were at Molineux to say goodbye to Nuno, two days after the surprise announcement this would be his last game in charge.

But United spoiled the send-off somewhat as they secured a win that ensures they have gone a full league season without losing an away game for the first time in their history.

Anthony Elanga opened the scoring when he marked only his second Premier League start with a goal, powering home a header inside the first 15 minutes.

Wolves responded well, equalising five minutes before the break when Nelson Semedo scored his first goal for the club by sweeping in from Fabio Silva’s smart square ball.

But United, who were already assured of second place before the game, reclaimed the lead on the stroke of half-time. Donny van de Beek was caught on the back of his foot by Romain Saiss, and after referee Mike Dean initially decided against awarding a penalty, he reversed his decision following a VAR review.

That left the home fans furious, with loud boos greeting the half-time whistle, and there was an added determination about Wolves’ play in the second half. But despite plenty of possession they lacked quality in the final third – something that has plagued them all season, in no small part because of injuries to key players.

Sergio Aguero marked his final appearance at Etihad Stadium with two goals as the new Premier League champions ended their domestic campaign with a thumping win over Everton.      — BBC Sport

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