Jurgen Klopp disappointed but proud of his 'outstanding' team

Liverpool were left to reflect on a brilliant league campaign, in which they have finished with 92 points, sufficient to have won the title in 24 of the previous 29 campaigns
Jurgen Klopp disappointed but proud of his 'outstanding' team

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp (second left) consoles Ibrahima Konate during the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool. Peter Byrne/PA Wire.

LIVERPOOL 3 WOLVES 1

The season can still be one of the most glorious of the modern era for Liverpool, if Jurgen Klopp leads them to victory in its final game in Paris in six days, but this was the day the quadruple died, amid a whole sequence of what ifs and what might have beens.

Despite what seemed numerous twists and turns on a dramatic day at Anfield, Liverpool were never in first place in the league table throughout.

By the time Mo Salah finally broke down Wolves’ dogged resistance to put Jurgen Klopp’s men 2-1 up after 84 minutes, Manchester City had completed their remarkable comeback at the Etihad and were on their way to a fourth title in five seasons.

There were two minutes between City’s third goal and Liverpool’s second and the biggest “what if” on the day will always surround what might have happened if Liverpool had taken the lead earlier, or not conceded to Wolves in the opening seconds.

With City trailing by two goals until the 76th minute, earlier news of a Liverpool second might have placed even greater pressure on their rivals and prevented that remarkable recovery.

Instead, there was just one last tantalising moment when Liverpool did finally take the lead and a huge roar emanated from the Anfield crowd, “fake news” clearly having spread the word of a phantom third Villa goal at the Etihad.

“There was one moment when it was 3-2 and for a moment, I don’t know why, who started it but I thought they equalised again,” smiled Klopp. “It was a good moment but it was only a second.

“I can imagine it was much worse for all the fans on the tellies, Aston Vila is 2-0 up and you think wow. I was not early aware of it, in my mind it was 1-0.

“With all the things, I would prefer they were 5-0 up after 10 minutes and play the game and it is fine. But the season was so close, so tight.

“And what I learned about life is if you stay on track, if you keep going, you get the rewards. Not today, not maximum rewards at least.” 

Ultimately, Liverpool were left to reflect on a brilliant league campaign, in which they have finished with 92 points, sufficient to have won the title in 24 of the previous 29 campaigns in Premier League history.

And it was one all the more impressive given that, briefly, at the start of the year they trailed City by as many as 14 points, gradually chipping away at their great north-west rivals to set up a finale which promised drama and unpredictable twists not seen since City themselves won the title through an injury-time Sergio Aguero goal exactly one decade ago.

“Yeah, the boys played an incredible season,” said Klopp. “The whole journey, absolutely exceptional.

“The game today showed so much. We conceded an early goal which gave us a knock, didn’t play football normally, had to take off Thiago early - not helpful - and still found a way, absolutely outstanding.

“And 92 points is crazy with all the games we played. I am proud and disappointed. There are other scenarios, if you go one up but it is not completely unexpected. Congratulations to Pep Guardiola. We were close but not close enough.” 

This could hardly be deemed a failure of a season in which Klopp has delivered both domestic cup trophies and has the small matter of a Champions League Final date against Real Madrid in Paris on Saturday evening.

Certainly, the response of the Anfield faithful, from before until well after the game yesterday, suggested there is no hint of regret, or sense of dissatisfaction, from those fans towards Klopp and his players.

As post-match Premier League awards were handed out to Alisson, Golden Gloves for most clean sheets, and to Salah, for most assists and joint-most goals, the mood was one of celebration and adulation; especially when outgoing cult striker Divock Origi was welcomed onto the Anfield pitch for the last time to say farewell.

The mood had been far more tense for most of the two preceding hours, at least until Salah bundled in his goal seven minutes from time, after Joel Matip’s header had been cleared off the line by Raul Jimenez, following a Trent Alexander-Arnold corner.

Andy Robertson added a third in the final minute, playing a neat one-two with Roberto Firmino and finishing impressively, the final act of a day high in tension and a showcase for Anfield at its very best.

And Klopp had needed all the backing those supporters could muster after seeing his team fall behind with less than three minutes on the clock.

Ibrahima Konate was the Liverpool culprit, badly misjudging a long ball from keeper Jose Sa that drifted over his head for Jimenez to chase and cross for Pedro Neto, who had sprinted ahead of the defence, to slot the ball home from six yards.

At a lesser stadium, the goal might have sucked the energy and optimism out of the supporters but not here, with a packed Anfield as loud and energetic as ever, inspiring their men to a 24th minute equaliser through Sadio Mane.

Konate’s ball was back-heeled into the striker’s pass via a superb touch from Thiago Alcantara with Mane sprinting clear and finishing superbly.

It was the beginning of Liverpool’s recovery although one that came at a cost, with the impressive Thiago limping off with an injury just before the interval and a doubt, along with fellow midfielder Fabinho, for the Champions League Final.

“This season is absolutely incredible and it does not end today, it ends next week,” said Klopp. “We will try absolutely everything.

“We have now five days to prepare for the final and it is what we will do. We face an incredibly experienced team but that’s okay. Of course, losing the league today increases the desire to put it right next week. Yeah, increases the desire.”

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