Liverpool steal point from Aston Villa to keep top 4 bid alive
Sports Desk, May 20 (EFE).- In his last match for Liverpool at Anfield, Roberto Firmino equalized in the 89th minute Saturday to salvage a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa, preserving the slim possibility that the Reds can pip Manchester United for fourth place and the accompanying ticket to the Champions League.
After winning seven trophies in eight seasons, the 31-year-old Brazilian has decided to leave Merseyside when his current contract expires this summer.
Back in the squad following an injury, Firmino produced another moment of magic to keep Liverpool in the race for fourth, if just barely.
United, 1-0 winners Saturday over Bournemouth, have 69 points with two games left to play, while Liverpool are on 66 points and have just one match.
To climb to fourth, the 2019 Champions League winners must not only take all 3 points from their final game next week at relegated Southampton, they need United to lose to both Chelsea and Fulham.
If Liverpool and United finish level on points, the Reds will claim the fourth spot thanks to a big advantage on goal difference, though the likelier outcome is fifth place and a Europa League slot.
Villa, meanwhile, came to Anfield with European aspirations of their own under coach Unai Emery, who has brought the team from 16th – just a point above the drop zone – when he took charge last November to eighth at the start of the Saturday’s contest.
The visitors from Birmingham were the better side in the first half.
Ollie Watkins drew a foul in the box from Ibrahim Konate in the 20th minute and stepped up to take the shot after the referee pointed to the spot.
But his effort went wide. Villa went on to take the lead in the 27th minute with a goal by Jacob Ramsey, who got his head to a Douglas Luiz cross.
Cody Gakpo appeared to bring the Reds level 10 minutes into the second half, only for VAR to intervene and disallow the goal for offside.
Villa still led 1-0 in the 72nd minute when Jürgen Klopp turned to his bench, sending in Firmino, James Milner, and Kostas Tsimikas.
With regulation drawing to a close, Firmino leapt to meet Mohamed Salah’s cross at the post and beat Emiliano Martinez for the 1-1. And though the Reds put the pedal to the floor, 10 minutes of stoppage time were not enough to get a winner.
The result, combined with Tottenham Hotspur’s 3-1 loss to Brentford, lifted Villa above Spurs into seventh place with 58 points.
Though they have the same number of points as sixth-place Brighton & Hove Albion, the Seagulls are better on goal difference and have two games in hand on Villa.
Seventh place means qualification for the Europa Conference League and if they can snatch sixth from Brighton, Emery’s men will be headed to the Europa League.