Liverpool, England, Jul 22 (efe-epa).- Liverpool held off Chelsea in a 5-3 goal fest here Wednesday at Anfield and later held a trophy ceremony to celebrate the Premier League title they had clinched nearly a month ago.
But while all is well in Merseyside as the Reds prepare to lower the curtain on one of the greatest seasons in English-league history, Chelsea are now in jeopardy of missing out on a berth in the 2020-2021 Champions League after suffering their 12th EPL loss.
Chelsea (63 points) had more to play for in Wednesday’s behind-closed-doors contest, yet it was Liverpool – who wrapped up their long-awaited title in late June – that stormed out of the gate and tallied three goals prior to the intermission.
Naby Keita opened the scoring in the 23rd minute with a rising long-range shot that traveled out of the reach of diving Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and struck the bottom of the crossbar before ricocheting over the line.
The Liverpool onslaught then continued with a phenomenal free kick by Trent Alexander-Arnold, whose shot cleared a wall of Chelsea defenders and entered the top-right corner in the 38th minute past a helpless Arrizabalaga.
Five minutes later, the home side stretched its lead to 3-0 on a score in the area by Georginio Wijnaldum off a corner kick.
Chelsea, however, started to show signs of life late in the first half, pulling one back in injury time when Olivier Giroud scored from close range after keeper Alisson had saved an initial shot by Willian.
After the break, Liverpool pushed their lead back to three goals in the 55th minute on a header by Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino, who scored for the first time at Anfield this season.
Chelsea, however, then got a huge lift from American winger Christian Pulisic, who came on as a substitute in the 59th minute.
Two minutes after taking the field, Pulisic maneuvered into the area past three Liverpool defenders and then set up striker Tammy Abraham for a score inside the six-yard box. Then in minute 73, the American star spun around and fired a shot into the top-right corner past Alisson to make the score 4-3.
The visitors suddenly could dream of clinching a spot in the Champions League with an improbable come-from-behind draw.
But instead Liverpool (96 points) wrapped up their 31st victory in 37 Premier League games this season with a counter-attack goal by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain off a pass from Andrew Robertson in the 84th minute.
Afterward, Liverpool’s players and coaches celebrated what was the club’s first English-league title since 1990.
“After last season, getting 97 points (to champion Manchester City’s 98) but not winning it was hard to take. But then we reacted by winning the (2018-2019) Champions League,” captain and midfielder Jordan Henderson said.
“And this season we knew we had unfinished business. I’m so thankful that I’m part of this club and part of this team that’s managed to get the Premier League after 30 years.”
In other action Wednesday at Old Trafford, Manchester United (63 points) drew 1-1 with West Ham United and moved ahead of Chelsea – based on goal differential – in the battle for the third and fourth Champions League spots out of the Premier League.
Michail Antonio opened the scoring for West Ham in first-half injury time with a penalty conversion before 18-year-old Mason Greenwood equalized for the Red Devils in the 50th minute.
With the draw, West Ham (38 points) are now officially out of danger of relegation to England’s second division.
Chelsea still can guarantee themselves a spot in Europe’s premier annual club competition by garnering just one point in their final game on Sunday against the Wolves.
But if they are upset at home, they could fall to fifth place and have to settle for the Europa League if Leicester City (62 points) either plays to a draw or defeats Man United on Sunday at King Power Stadium. EFE-EPA