Mane double sends Liverpool into Champions League after Crystal Palace victory

The Reds did what they had to do on the Premier League’s final day of the season, beating Palace and ensuring a third-placed finish

Liverpool ensured a nightmare season ended on a high, securing Champions League qualification with a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace at Anfield.

In front of a crowd of 10,000, Sadio Mane’s double gave the Reds a precious and comfortable victory, ensuring they finish the season third in the Premier League table.

It is Leicester who miss out on the top four, the Foxes beaten 4-2 by Tottenham at the King Power Stadium having twice led. Chelsea sneak into fourth despite a 2-1 loss of their own away at Aston Villa.

Early nerves settled 

Liverpool made a nervy start to the game, and could have found themselves behind early on when Trent Alexander-Arnold’s loose pass sent Andros Townsend racing clear. The Palace winger, though, dragged his shot wide of the far post.

The home side grew into the contest thereafter, and wasted a great chance of their own when Rhys Williams headed Andy Robertson’s corner over the bar from seven yards when totally unmarked.

Vicente Guaita denied Mohamed Salah after a superb pass from Thiago Alcantara, Robertson screwed a shot wide and Mane was wild when set up by Gini Wijnaldum, who was almost certainly making his 237th and final appearance in a red shirt. Wijnaldum was given a standing ovation when replaced by James Milner late on.

The breakthrough came on 36 minutes, Robertson’s corner glanced on by Williams and when Roberto Firmino got a touch at the far post, Mane was there to force the ball home, his 15th goal of what has been a mixed campaign for the Senegal star.

Mane seals it

It was relatively comfortable thereafter, Liverpool able to control proceedings despite the difficulties posed by a swirling wind inside the stadium.

Chances were at a premium, with Palace barely venturing near the Reds’ penalty area and Liverpool unable to convert their dominance.

That changed on 74 minutes when a swift break saw Wijnaldum and Salah combine. Salah fed Mane, and his shot took a deflection en route past Guaita for 2-0.

That killed the game as a contest, though Salah battled hard for a goal which would have earned him a share of the Golden Boot. Alas, it never came, meaning Spurs’ Harry Kane takes the prize.

Liverpool bounce back

After a campaign which threatened to go completely off the rails at one point, Klopp will be proud of his players’ response at the business end of the season. Liverpool finished on a run of 10 league games unbeaten, eight of them victories, delivering as their rivals have faltered. They will now enjoy a fifth successive season in the Champions League, and a much-needed financial boost as a result. That looked unlikely just a few weeks ago, when they trailed Leicester by as many as 10 points, but the resilience and character of the 2019-20 has shone through. They got a strong reception from their supporters, many of whom were here for the first time in 14 months, at the final whistle.

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