Liverpool vs Aston Villa. Premier League.
Match report and highlights as Liverpool's seven-match winning run ended by Aston Villa at Anfield; Ollie Watkins missed a penalty before Jacob Ramsey fired Unai Emery's team in front; Roberto Firmino got his fairytale ending at Anfield, popping up with the equaliser
Sunday 21 May 2023 07:24, UK
Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool are "looking forward" to a Europa League campaign after their 1-1 draw to Aston Villa left a top-four finish very unlikely.
Roberto Firmino scored a late leveller on his final Anfield appearance but Liverpool's winning streak came to an end.
With Manchester United winning 1-0 at Bournemouth, Liverpool are three points off their rivals in fourth but United still have two games to play.
Ollie Watkins had already missed a penalty when Jacob Ramsey opened the scoring (27) for Unai Emery's excellently organised side who were on the verge of becoming just the second team to win at Anfield in the Premier League in the last 42 fixtures.
However, Klopp called for Firmino and James Milner from the bench - both who are leaving the club in the summer - and it was the brilliant Brazilian, who was in tears at full-time, that forced home the equaliser with stoppage time approaching.
Klopp, who watched the game from the stands following his FA ban, said Liverpool fans "are looking forward to a new Premier League season and a Europa League season - so do I".
Villa were perhaps fortunate not to have the otherwise excellent Tyrone Mings sent-off in the first half for a very high challenge on Cody Gakpo, who also had a goal chalked off for offside after the break.
Liverpool: Alisson (7), Alexander-Arnold (6), Konate (5), Van Dijk (6), Robertson (6), Henderson (6), Fabinho (6), Jones (6), Salah (7), Gakpo (7), Diaz (6)
Subs: Firmino (8), Milner (7), Tsmikas (6), Elliott (6)
Aston Villa: Martinez (7), Cash (7), Konsa (8), Mings (8), Digne (7), Bailey (7), McGinn (8), Luiz (8), Kamara (7), Ramsey (8), Watkins (7)
Subs: Moreno (7), Young (7), Buendia (7), Dendoncker (N/A)
Player of the match: Roberto Firmino
Aston Villa know a win against Brighton on the final day will guarantee them a seventh-placed finish which would mean qualification for the Europa Conference League.
Klopp had to watch from the stands as he served a one-match touchline ban with the referee in charge, John Brooks, the man whose face Klopp celebrated in front of against Tottenham which led to his suspension for this game.
Brooks was in the thick of the action in an intense game with both teams taking risks with their aggressive defensive high lines. The referee handed Watkins a golden opportunity from the spot when the striker induced an ill-judged tackle from Ibrahima Konate, but Watkins placed his penalty well wide.
Ramsey spared Watkins' blushes minutes later when his well-executed volley from Douglas Luiz's cross whistled past Alisson.
Villa played with great control and aggression as Liverpool struggled for answers, however, they appeared fortunate to finish the half still with 11 players on the pitch.
Brooks only booked Mings for a high challenge on Gakpo, who was caught in the midriff with a forceful boot from the Villa defender. VAR took a look at the tackle but didn't initiate an on-field review.
The same pattern continued after the break with Villa's high line making it difficult for Liverpool to put sustained attacks together. Gakpo thought he had an equaliser after the restart when he followed in a rebound from a Konate shot which was blocked on the line by Mings, but VAR invited Brooks to view the pitchside monitor and he overturned his original decision as Virgil van Dijk was offside in the build up from a Luiz Dias header.
The equaliser didn't look like coming but Firmino popped up in the 89th minute, sliding in to convert Mohamed Salah's low cross to set up a grandstand finish. Liverpool probed but Villa remained switched on and controlled in their defending. A point was the least they deserved.
Klopp said: "I think the whole season is rather a season where we qualify for Europa League than for Champions League. We were for too long not good enough or ourselves. I think we made it pretty exciting. I didn't think that was possible seven weeks ago. The boys did really well in that period.
"I think our people enjoyed it as well, you could see today they are not angry with us, they are looking forward to a new Premier League season and a Europa League season - so do I.
"Bobby [Firmino] comes on, plays top football, is between the lines and scores a fantastic goal. Wonderful story, well deserved the story. This day was not an easy day for us - no excuse for anything, it just was not easy because we all love these four boys.
"So, the two boys who came on obviously showed today immediately what we will miss. It's Millie's [Milner] mentality; I don't want to underestimate really his football because he played really good football here and today again but the way he comes in a game, oh my God, whoever will do that for us in the next few years, that is a high, high bar because how many games he won for us in this way is insane."
Emery said: "You can analyse 90 minutes in different ways.
"I think the first half we played very well but we played well because to play to avoid the high press is not easy and to play with the personality we did is not easy.
"To have got three points would have been fantastic, we defended very well and our commitment was fantastic.
"I've played here before and I know what a difficult match it is here at Anfield. They were in their best moment of the season, confident, trying to get top four."
The final day of the Premier League season is on May 28 with every game kicking off at 4.30pm. Free match highlights will be published across Sky Sports' digital platforms shortly after full-time.
Liverpool go to already relegated Southampton for their last game of the season while Aston Villa host Brighton.
Salah's assist for Firmino's equaliser was the 25th time the pair have combined for a Premier League goal (Salah 12 assists, Firmino 13), the most of any Liverpool duo in the competition.
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