Liverpool dreams of a first league title in 29 years were crushed despite a 2-0 win over Wolves.
Sadio Mane’s 25th and 26th goals of the season upheld their end of the bargain on a tense and occasionally surreal final day of the Premier League campaign – but there was no fairytale finish as Manchester City won 4-1 at Brighton to extend the Anfield wait to be champions again.
The Reds’ great manager Bill Shankly once insisted “first is first and second is nowhere” but that would be harsh on this current team’s achievements.
To put their season into perspective a record runners-up points tally of 97 is the third-highest in the top-flight’s history, beaten only by City’s 98 this season and 100 last.
Before Tuesday’s remarkable 4-0 comeback against Barcelona to reach a second successive Champions League final manager Jurgen Klopp had said if they did not get through they would “fail beautifully”.
If there is such a thing then they did it in the Premier League.
Such fine margins decided this title race and for Liverpool it effectively came down to 11 millimetres, the distance goalline technology decided Mane’s shot was from going in for what would have been the opening goal at the Etihad Stadium in January – the only league game they lost this season.
The turnaround against Barcelona had made the near-impossible realistically achievable for Reds fans but this was one miracle too far.
With destiny not in their own hands on this occasion there was nothing Liverpool could do to influence one final, dramatic last-day twist.
Having taken an early lead they were top of the league for 21 minutes until City recovered from a surprise early deficit at Brighton.
The Seagulls exceeded expectations by scoring but even at Anfield, a place where hope springs eternal, there was a resignation a team 17th in the table with just three draws in a nine-match winless run heading into the weekend would not produce the goods for them.
Fans’ pessimism was not misplaced. However, it has been the only occasion in this wonderful season in which fans have shown a lack of belief.
Klopp’s vow when he arrived at the club was to turn doubters into believers and with a fourth final – two in the Champions League – pending in three and a half years and a nail-biting title challenge completed he has achieved that.
If they were to lift a sixth European Cup on June 1 against Tottenham in Madrid it would be no small consolation.
Mohamed Salah, back in the side after concussion, winning back-to-back Premier League Golden Boots with 22 for the campaign – sharing it with Mane and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – is another sign of the quality and consistency Klopp is now getting out of this squad.
It has not gone unnoticed by principal owner John W Henry, who congratulated Klopp on the Barcelona win in a trans-Atlantic phone call on Tuesday but was here in person to see the season’s league climax.
But it was Mane, the player who has had the best second half of the season, who broke the deadlock and had fans dreaming of what might be after 17 minutes.
Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold combined down the right and Mane sidefooted home his 21st league goal of the season via a deflected cross from the England full-back, whose 12th Premier League assist set a new single-campaign record for a defender.
A roar reverberated around Anfield which, at first, was a false alarm about a ghost goal at the Amex but then genuine news filtered through of Brighton scoring first to send the noise levels rocketing.
For 83 seconds the ground was filled with hope and unbridled joy, only to be quelled moments later when Sergio Aguero’s equalised for City.
Still Liverpool pushed and Salah volleyed over before Matt Doherty hit the crossbar with the visitors’ only chance of the half.
With the realisation the title was gone the hosts came out flat after the break and Wolves should have capitalised. However, despite decent chances for Raul Jimenez and Diego Jota, they did not.
Mane’s diving header from another Alexander-Arnold cross, in the 82nd minute, ensured the day ended on a high and Madrid now awaits for one last shot at glory.
We hope you enjoyed our coverage of the Premier League fixture between Liverpool and Wolves, as well as all of our live commentaries for the 2018/19 season. It’s been a pleasure, we’ll see you next time!
Liverpool are in action again on Saturday June 1, when they face Tottenham in the Champions League final. As for Wolves, their 2018/19 campaign is over, and they can look forward to their upcoming holidays.
Liverpool complete their 30th victory of the Premier League campaign and finish the season with an extraordinary 97 points … but still finish second in the table thanks to Manchester City’s victory over Brighton and Hove Albion. Liverpool were not at their best today – perhaps understandably considering their exertions against Barcelona in the Champions League – but two goals from Sadio Mane secured a routine win. Occasional attacks from Jota and Doherty were the best Wolves could muster going forward, but Liverpool’s defensive unit held firm for their 21st clean sheet of the season. City ultimately beat Liverpool to the title by a single point, while Wolves finish their first season back in the Premier League in seventh.
FULL-TIME: LIVERPOOL 2-0 WOLVES.
The fourth official indicates two minutes at the end of the match for stoppages.
Overall Possession Ratio
Oxlade-Chamberlain is Klopp’s final substitute, as Wijnaldum is recalled.
Alexander-Arnold has provided 12 assists in the Premier League in 2018-19: the most by a defender in a single campaign in the competition.
VAN DIJK OFF THE CROSSBAR! A short-corner routine has the ball on the foot of Alexander-Arnold, who swings it to the far post in search of the imposing centre-back. The defender gets his head to it first, but it ricochets off the top of the goal and rolls out for a goal-kick.
Klopp also takes this time to make a substitution – recalling Robertson and sending Gomez onto the pitch.
Jonny’s day is done as well, with Ruben Vinagre called from the bench to replace him.
Gibbs-White will be given a six-minute cameo as he replaces Moutinho.
MANE DOUBLES LIVERPOOL’S ADVANTAGE AND PUTS HIM LEVEL WITH SALAH FOR THE GOLDEN BOOT! 2-0! Van Dijk steps up on the halfway line and wins possession, pushing it immediately to Alexander-Arnold, whose cross deep from midfield finds the head of a diving Mane! It’s his 22nd league goal of the campaign!
Alexander-Arnold has been instrumental in both goals today, with his accurate cross the assist for Mane’s second.
Nuno withdraws Doherty in favour of Traore with 10 minutes left.
Alexander-Arnold looks to flick the ball into the penalty area for the waiting Salah, but Boly’s prowess in the air forces the ball out of the box and back to the full-back to try again.
Liverpool are retaining possession in midfield as they look relatively unmotivated to press forward in search of a second goal. Should the result stay this way, both the Golden Boot (Salah) and Golden Glove (Alisson) will be awarded to Liverpool players – even if they don’t get their hands on the league trophy.
Liverpool have not lost any of their last 91 PL games at Anfield when in front at half time, since losing 1-2 against Arsenal in Dec 2009 (W82 D9)
Overall Possession Ratio
UPDATE: GUNDOGAN MAKES IT 4-1 MANCHESTER CITY! A wonderful free-kick goal virtually seals Manchester City as Premier League winners. If Liverpool have any hope at all, it’s in the knowledge that – as we saw in the week with Liverpool and Tottenham – three-goal leads are never a certainty.
The Anfield crowd has quietened considerably since hearing of Manchester City’s third goal, but Liverpool have done everything in their power today to force City to perform in order to retain the Premier League trophy. It has been an exceptional title race with two sides of the highest quality, but it looks as though the title will be kept in Manchester, unless Brighton can somehow do the Reds a favour and gift Klopp a second miraculous result in five days.
The substitution for Liverpool has seemingly sparked a change in formation as Milner slots into the left side of midfield, pushing Salah and Mane up front on their own in what looks to be a traditional 4-4-2.
UPDATE: BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION 1-3 MANCHESTER CITY! Mahrez’s strike on 64 minutes, assisted by David Silva, has given Guardiola’s side a two-goal cushion!
The first substitution of the match sees Origi depart in favour of Milner.
Mane bursts into the penalty area and centres it for both Origi and Salah, both of whom are unable to take on the shot at the first time of asking. Origi turns to find the ball and manages a cracking half-volley towards goal which is blocked over the bar heroically by a retreating Coady.
UPDATE: With an hour gone in both matches, the advantage is Manchester City’s as they continue to lead Brighton 2-1. It was a wild first half, but it seems to have given way to a slightly more tame second.
JIMENEZ HORRIBLY WIDE! Lovely passing in the middle of the park opens up the right flank for both Jimenez and Doherty, but the striker opts to take a crack at goal instead of laying it off for his winger. It’s a poor decision in the end as the Wolves number nine fails to hit the target entirely.
Overall Possession Ratio
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