Sports Desk, May 13 (EFE).- Roberto Firmino had a brace Thursday to lead Liverpool 2-4 over Manchester United, a result that kept alive the Reds’ hope for the top-four finish they need to guarantee Champions League play in 2021-2022.
Though the odds are not in favor of last season’s Premier League champions, the morale of Liverpool and their supporters will certainly improve following the triumph against their bitter rivals.
Jürgen Klopp’s men are fifth in the table on 60 points, four behind Chelsea and six off the pace of Leicester City in third. Even if they win all three of their remaining games, the Reds need either Chelsea or Leicester to drop points.
The Blues and Foxes are set to face other twice in the next five days: Saturday in the FA Cup final and next Tuesday in the penultimate league match for both teams.
United, whose loss to Leicester earlier this week confirmed Manchester City as champions, are through to the Europa League final and apparently safe in second place, so they had little at stake on Thursday.
Even so, they will be disappointed about losing to Liverpool at Old Trafford for the first time since March 2014.
Police were thick on the ground outside the Theater of Dreams on Thursday to prevent a repeat of the events of May 2, when an invasion of the stadium by fans unhappy with the club’s owners forced postponement of the tie with Liverpool.
The visitors got off to a shaky start, with goalkeeper Alisson lucky not to concede in the 5th minute after a giveaway to United’s Edinson Cavani, who fired just wide of the post.
United went up 1-0 five minutes later when Liverpool’s Nathaniel Phillips redirected the ball into his own net while trying to clear a shot from Bruno Fernandes.
The Reds saw a good opportunity to equalize evaporate in the 28th minute after a VAR review led the referee to disallow the penalty he had awarded for a foul on Phillips.
Paul Pogba headed wide on a chance to make it 2-0 in the 31st minute, second before Diogo Jota forced a save from United keeper Dean Henderson.
But the England international couldn’t prevent Jota from scoring on the ensuing corner to level the match at 1-1.
Liverpool won a free kick deep in first-half stoppage time and Firmino got his head to Trent Alexander-Arnold’s effort, giving the visitors a 1-2 edge at the break.
Firmino extended the advantage to 1-3 just two minutes into the second half, knocking in the rebound after Henderson made the initial stop on Alexander-Arnold.
The post denied Jota in the 59th minute and Henderson blocked a strike from Alexander-Arnold in the 62nd, six minutes before Marcus Rashford narrowed the deficit for United with a tremendous assist from Cavani.
In the 71st minute, late sub Mason Greenwood saw a shot stopped on the goal-line by Phillips and a second effort blocked by Rhys Williams as United besieged Alisson’s goal.
Mohamed Salah fired over Henderson’s cross-bar on the subsequent counter and Fernandes did likewise on a United free-kick with 12 minutes left in regulation.
But the Egyptian made no mistake on a breakaway in the 90th minute to seal the 2-4 win. EFE apa/dr