Liverpool 3-0 Middlesbrough: Jurgen Klopp guides Reds into Champions League
By Lewis Jones
Last Updated: 22/05/17 11:09am
Liverpool secured fourth place in the Premier League and qualification to the Champions League with a 3-0 victory over Middlesbrough on Sunday.
Goals from Georginio Wijnaldum, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana meant that Jurgen Klopp - in his second season in charge - guided the Reds into the top four for just the second time in the last seven seasons.
The result saw Arsenal miss out on Champions League football for the first in 20 years by finishing fifth, while Manchester City will join Liverpool in playing Europe's elite after they finished third.
Klopp's men will face a two-legged play-off in August to make the Champions League group stage.
For already-relegated Middlesbrough, who had a strong appeal for a penalty for a foul on Patrick Bamford turned down at 0-0, this defeat was their 18th consecutive away game without a win - the club's longest run since 1980.
Klopp welcomed back Roberto Firmino in place of Divock Origi and there was another start for Daniel Sturridge, who was making back-to-back starts for the first time since November.
In a very nervy opening half, Middlesbrough sat deep and soaked up Liverpool's possession game with only Coutinho looking likely of unlocking the visitors' defence.
He tested Brad Guzan's gloves with a few long distance crosses and shots but the Boro goalkeeper was equal to the test.
With Arsenal winning at home to Everton, nerves started to grow around the ground as Liverpool continued to struggle in the final third.
The anxiety levels would've been turned up another notch had referee Martin Atkinson awarded Boro a penalty after 22 minutes. Patrick Bamford burst in behind Dejan Lovren and the defender, who was the last man, seemed to bundle the striker to the ground inside the penalty.
Atkinson waved away the appeals and it was a decision Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville labelled "terrible".
With half-time approaching and Klopp looking frustrated on the touchline, Wijnaldum changed the complexion of the game with the opening goal.
He latched onto a clever flick from Firmino, strode into the area and fired a powerful effort past Guzan at his near post.
After half-time, Liverpool were much more comfortable in possession in the final third and Sturridge showed a quick change of direction after 50 minutes to win a free-kick about 25 yards out.
Coutinho stepped up and whipped a clever low effort into the far corner - the third time he has scored directly from a free-kick this season.
Liverpool made it 3-0 after 56 minutes with Lallana netting his first goal of 2017 after a swift counter attack following a Boro corner.
The lead was an unassailable one for Boro to chase as Coutinho volleyed just wide of the post from another quick break before picking out Firmino on his own in the area only for his strike partner to fluff his lines.
Liverpool: Mignolet (7), Clyne (6), Lovren (6), Matip (6), Milner (7), Can (7), Wijnaldum (8), Lallana (7), Coutinho (8), Firmino (7), Sturridge (7).
Subs: Moreno (6), Lucas (6), Origi (6)
Middlesbrough: Guzan (4), Fabio (5), Chambers (6), Gibson (6), Friend (6), Clayton (6), Leadbitter (6), Forshaw (5), Downing (6), Bamford (6), Gestede (6)
Subs: Ayala (6), Negredo (6)
Man of the match: Philippe Coutinho