Liverpool’s Champions League hopes were dealt a blow with a 1-1 draw at home to Aston Villa on Saturday, though they were destined to miss out on the European elite until Roberto Firmino emerged from the bench.
The Brazilian was one of four departing Liverpool “legends” that Jurgen Klopp mourned ahead of the club’s last home game of the season. “One chapter will be closed and we can start writing a new one,” Klopp wistfully reflected pre-game. However, Firmino had one last flourish to add to his epilogue.
Villa took the lead through Jacob Ramsey’s craftily cushioned volley after 27 minutes but could have been two goals to the good had Ollie Watkins converted his earlier penalty.
After the interval, in-game injuries and an in-built pessimism prompted Unai Emery to engage the team’s collective handbrake. Hunkering on the edge of their own box, Villa left Mohamed Salah with just enough space to bend a cross onto Firmino’s outstretched stud in the 89th minute.
Marshalled by the heroic Tyrone Mings – notwithstanding a reckless first-half lunge on Cody Gakpo which somehow went unpunished – Villa managed to withstand Liverpool’s onslaught throughout all ten minutes of second-half stoppage time.
Manchester United’s victory against Bournemouth on the same day ensured that the Reds are on the cusp of Europa League football next season but Firmino’s late effort kept the dream of Champions League qualification alive – just.
Here are Liverpool’s best and worst players from 90min’s player ratings for another dramatic Premier League outing.
Roberto Firmino: 7/10
It may have only lasted less than half an hour, but Firmino did enough in a final farewell to rank as Liverpool’s best performer. Although, that should also be read as a damning indictment of the rest of his teammates’ contribution in a largely toothless display.
Klopp warned that the contest would be “super important and super emotional” and that was exactly how Firmino’s brief cameo could be viewed. Sidling up to his adoring fans at the end of another pivotal outing, Firmino will not have been the only one in Anfield with tears in their eyes.
Liverpool have conceded 43 Premier League goals this season, the most of any full campaign during Klopp’s tenure. However, Alisson can scarcely be blamed for these defensive struggles.
Rocking a particularly bushy beard even as the temperature tentatively rises, Liverpool’s shot-stopping supremo kept the Reds in the contest long enough for his compatriot to snatch a point.
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The location of Cleopatra’s tomb, what happened to Amelia Earheart, the identity of Jack the Ripper. How Fabinho only earned a yellow card in the final ten minutes of Saturday’s contest can be added to the great mysteries of mankind.
Taking inspiration from the unknown capital slayer, Fabinho hacked down everything that was in his sight, giving away a match-high six fouls – half of which came in the space of less than ten first-half minutes.
Ibrahima Konate: 3/10
Watkins saw precious little of the ball after planting it well wide of Alisson’s net but he did routinely unsettle Ibrahima Konate with his darts behind Liverpool’s high back line.
Virgil van Dijk was forced to repeatedly sweep across and mop up – not before firing a cutting look towards his junior centre-back partner. However, Van Dijk was not in position to chase Watkins down when he scurried beyond Konate in the opening 20 minutes.
Villa’s out-of-form forward just got his toe to the ball before Konate could hook his impossibly long leg around in recovery, clumsily felling Watkins for his first-ever concession of a Premier League penalty.