The Sunday Mail
Roberto Firmino scored an 89th-minute equaliser to salvage a draw against Aston Villa and keep alive Liverpool’s faint hopes of a top-four Premier League finish.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are three points behind Newcastle United and Manchester United with one game remaining, meaning their two rivals need just one point from their final two games to secure Champions League qualification for next season.
The fact it remains mathematically possible, if perhaps unlikely, is down to the departing Firmino sneaking in at the near post to convert Mohamed Salah’s low cross.
The visitors will be disappointed not to have claimed all three points after an impressive display.
They had a golden opportunity to lead midway through the first half when Ibrahima Konate tripped Ollie Watkins in the box, but the striker sent his penalty wide.
Unai Emery’s men continued to push on and grabbed a deserved first-half goal through Jacob Ramsey’s sweet guided volley at the back post from Douglas Luiz’s cross.
Liverpool – with Klopp watching from the stands as he begins his touchline ban – improved thereafter and thought they had equalised when Cody Gakpo converted following a scramble, but the effort was ruled out for offside in the build-up.
Villa maintain their European aspirations by moving up to seventh after the draw, but missed out on going sixth as a result of the late equaliser.
This was a costly two points dropped by Liverpool, who really needed to win after Manchester United edged to a victory against Bournemouth that may be the key to sealing a top-four place.
The Reds came into the contest on the back of a resurgence in form, winning their last seven league games to spark hopes of playing in Europe’s elite club competition next season.
But they trailed for a large part of the game against Villa and needed the intervention of substitute Firmino, who set the place rocking with his leveller in front of the Kop.
The Brazil forward will leave the club at the end of the season and has provided plenty of memorable moments in a red shirt, but he and his team-mates could not find a winner despite 10 minutes of added on time.
James Milner was also given a generous send-off in his final game at Anfield at full-time but Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who are also leaving, missed out through injury.
The goal was Liverpool’s 99th in all competitions but their problems have been at the back as they again failed to keep a clean sheet and conceded a 43rd league goal this season – the most in a full campaign under Klopp.
Luis Diaz headed wide in the best chance of a poor first half, while Salah and the in-form Trent Alexander-Arnold both fired straight at Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez before Firmino’s late intervention.
Meanwhile, Casemiro’s stunning overhead kick edged Manchester United a step closer to a top-four finish as they secured a narrow Premier League victory over Bournemouth.
In a game lacking in clear-cut opportunities, a piece of magic from Casemiro proved the difference at the Vitality Stadium.
The Brazilian midfielder picked up a beautifully weighted pass from Christian Eriksen and turned away from Marcos Senesi to acrobatically hammer home.
Without their top goal scorer this season, Marcus Rashford, who was absent from the squad with illness and missed the opportunity to equal his best tally of 17 goals in a single campaign, United struggled to mount regular goal threats. But Casemiro’s ninth-minute strike, combined with Liverpool’s draw against Aston Villa, were enough to move United one point away from guaranteeing a top-four spot.
EPL Results and Fixtures
Tottenham 1-3 Brentford
Bournemouth 0-1 Manchester Utd
Fulham 2-2 Crystal Palace
Liverpool 1-1 Aston Villa
Wolves 1-1 Everton
Nottingham v Arsenal (Played late)
West Ham v Leeds 3.30pm
Brighton v Southampton 4pm
Manchester City v Chelsea 5pm. — BBC