Let the celebrations begin as Liverpool finally end 30 years of hurt

And so Liverpool are Premier League champions, after Chelsea finally killed off Manchester City’s challenge, just as they did four years ago, when a draw with Tottenham at Stamford Bridge handed the title to Leicester City.
Let the celebrations begin as Liverpool finally end 30 years of hurt
STAND UP FOR THE CHAMPIONS: Liverpool fan Emily Farley shows off her shirt with Champions on the back as she watches Chelsea end Manchester City’s slim title hopes. Picture: Anthony Devlin/Offside/Getty Images
STAND UP FOR THE CHAMPIONS: Liverpool fan Emily Farley shows off her shirt with Champions on the back as she watches Chelsea end Manchester City’s slim title hopes. Picture: Anthony Devlin/Offside/Getty Images

And so Liverpool are Premier League champions, after Chelsea finally killed off Manchester City’s challenge, just as they did four years ago, when a draw with Tottenham at Stamford Bridge handed the title to Leicester City.

That was an infamous evening, when the Battle of the Bridge was played out in a febrile atmosphere with Chelsea coming from 2-0 down to draw and start party at Jamie Vardy’s that went on long into the night.

This was a much more muted occasion, with no fans or atmosphere at Stamford Bridge and City needing victory to keep alive their slim hopes of catching Liverpool. In the end, they lost the game and their most experienced player Fernandinho, who was sent off for handball leading to the penalty that cost them the game in the 75th minute.

It was an all-too familiar story for City, who had plenty of possession but could not find the spark to win when they needed to. And at the final whistle, Pep Guardiola and his players milled around, lingering on the pitch, and looking a little lost.

Of course the Reds would rather have sealed the title at Anfield, in front of their adoring fans, but that was never going to happen once the UK went into lockdown and the Premier League had to return behind closed doors.

So it was always going to be hard for Liverpool and their supporters to find the ideal way to seal a title win after 30 years of hurt, and even if City had won at Chelsea to prolong the agony, who would have bet against the Reds going to the Etihad next week and taking the Premier League trophy off Guardiola’s men.

Pep Guardiola’s men could not make Liverpool wait longer for the title (Paul Childs/NMC Pool)
Pep Guardiola’s men could not make Liverpool wait longer for the title (Paul Childs/NMC Pool)

Jurgen Klopp and his players can now go into that game and get a guard of honour from City, who could not hold on to their title for a third successive season.

In fairness, Liverpool have looked champions for most of the season and before the league stopped in March, it was only a matter of when, not if, they would win it. City have been a poor second for most of the season and that is where they will finish in all probability, although Leicester or even Chelsea could yet overtake them.

They had a tired look tonight, and were certainly bereft of ideas going forward. They dominated possession from the word go, but with Sergio Aguero injured and Gabriel Jesus on the bench for almost an hour, they rarely threatened to score.

The breakthrough came in the 36th minute, following a City free-kick. When the ball was cleared towards the halfway line, Bernard Mendy made a hash of his attempted clearance and allowed Christian Pulisic a run on goal.

The speedy American had plenty of work to do, but he kept off the chasing Mendy and Ilkay Gundogan before coolly curling the ball past Ederson and into the net, to the cheers of the Chelsea substitutes and a handful of stewards.

Guardiola resisted the temptation to ring the changes at half-time, but when he did send on David Silva and Jesus nine minutes into the second-half, Kevin De Bruyne scored immediately with a superb free-kick swinging the ball into the top left-hand corner from 25 yards.

Kevin De Bruyne scored a fantastic free-kick for Manchester City (Julian Finney/NMC Pool)
Kevin De Bruyne scored a fantastic free-kick for Manchester City (Julian Finney/NMC Pool)

The goal gave City hope, and they should have gone ahead two minutes later when Raheem Sterling was played in for a one-on-one with Kepa, and although the England winger lifted the ball past the keeper, it hit the post and rebounded to safety. It clearly was not to be City’s night.

De Bruyne, who shone again on his return to Stamford Bridge, was hurt in a challenge from Antonio Rudiger which was reviewed by the Video Assistant Referee and not considered a red card offence. But again Chelsea were always dangerous on the break. Pulisic thought he had scored again in the 70th minute when he broke away, took the ball around Ederson but saw his shot cleared off the line by a sliding Kyle Walker.

Sterling curled a tame shot wide of the far post, before the game turned again in the 75th minute.

Willian was the architect, brushing off De Bruyne as he charged down the right.

His cross allowed substitute Tammy Abraham a shot that was blocked, and Mason Mount’s follow-up was stopped by Ederson and then cleared by Fernandinho — but not before he had handled the ball.

Fernandinho was sent off for handball (Adrian Dennis/NMC Pool)
Fernandinho was sent off for handball (Adrian Dennis/NMC Pool)

With Frank Lampard and his staff screaming for a penalty, referee Stuart Atwell consulted the men at Stockley Park, whose replays showed a clear handball. Atwell showed Fernandinho a red card and pointed to the penalty spot, and Willian made no mistake, firing the ball high and wide of Ederson to make it 2-1.

Even when six minutes of time was added at the end, it never looked like City could turn it around, and it was Chelsea who went closest to scoring again when Pedro had a curling shot saved by Ederson.

So Liverpool are champions at last, and worthy ones at that. There will be no ‘null and void’, no asterisk against their name, just a nine-letter word beginning and ending with ‘L’ etched on to the Premier League trophy.

Let the celebrations begin.

CHELSEA: Arrizabalaga 7; Azpilicueta 6, Rudiger 6, Christensen 7, Alonso 6; Kante 7, Barkley 7 (Kovacic 70), Mount 7 (Gilbert 8); Willian 8, Giroud 5, Pulisic 8 (Pedro 89)

MANCHESTER CITY: Ederson 7; Walker 6, Laporte 6 (Otamendi 70), Fernandinho 5, Mendy 5 (Zinchenko 59); De Bruyne 8, Rodrigo 6 (D Silva 54), Gundogan 6; Mahrez 7, B Silva 6 (Jesus 54), Sterling 5

Referee: Stuart Atwell.

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