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Sunday, 21 May 2017

Sports News: Liverpool Claim Last Champions League Spot, Beat Middlesbrough 3-0


Current sports news as Liverpool secured their Champions League return as their initial nerves turned to jubilation and relegated Middlesbrough crumbled at Anfield.

With top-four rivals Arsenal ahead at Everton, Liverpool were impotent in attack and twitchy at the back for most of the first half.

But Georginio Wijnaldum eased the tension in injury time, bursting into the box and smashing in a fierce shot at the near post.

Philippe Coutinho’s low curling free-kick six minutes into the second half was quickly followed by Adam Lallana slotting in to give the Reds a comfortable cushion to ride out to
full-time.

With Manchester City thrashing Watford, Liverpool finished fourth in the final Premier League table and will have to negotiate Champions League qualifying at the start of next season.

Manager Jurgen Klopp had a beaming smile on the final whistle as he congratulated his players, but his team’s display – in front of a watching owner John W Henry – underlined the need for further investment as they prepare to step up to Europe’s top table for the first time since 2014-15.

That campaign ended in the group stages as Brendan Rodgers’ side – with talisman Luis Suarez sold to Barcelona – were found wanting.

If they play like they did in Sunday’s first half, the same fate will be the best this version can hope for.

As so often this season, Liverpool’s attackers seemed stumped by deep-lying opposition and the soft centre of their defence was nearly exposed when Patrick Bamford got the wrong side of Dejan Lovren and had a strong claim for a penalty denied.

But Wijnaldum’s powerful opener changed the mood both in the stands and on the pitch. The interplay between Roberto Firmino, Coutinho and Lallana in the second half was close to the scintillating best that they have produced in this campaign.

They surely need additions to recreate that form more consistently and on bigger stages next season, but Klopp’s side collected an impressive 76 points and finished above Arsenal and Manchester United in his first full season in charge.

-BBC

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