Liverpool confirmed their return to Europe’s elite competition with a comfortable 3-0 final day win over relegated-Middlesbrough at Anfield with goals from Wijnaldum, Coutinho and Lallana settling plenty of pre-match nerves among Reds supporters.
The pressure was mounting on Klopp’s men when the clock ticked 45 in the first half with both Arsenal and Manchester City scoring but Wijnaldum’s goal in added time in the first half settled all those jangling nerves around Anfield.
Liverpool made themselves comfortable with early second half goals from Coutinho and Lallana to put things beyond doubt for an already relegated Middlesbrough side who never really threatened Mignolet’s goal barring three attempts from Forshaw but all those epidemic.
Liverpool and Klopp have suffered in few devastating ‘final’ fixtures going back to League Cup and Europa League final defeats, the expectations were always high just because this game was against a team who have won just once since the turn of this year and had not won at Anfield in their last four visits.
Liverpool started quickly but Middlesbrough almost played with 6 at the back having their wide players acting as fullbacks and actual fullbacks tucked in to deny spaces. There were few close moments from Clyne, Coutinho, Can and Sturridge but those shots were fairly easy Brad Guzan and his defence.
It was until the added time in first half when Wijnaldum ventured forward and got a quick ball from Firmino around Boro defender Ben Gibson to create space inside the box, the Dutchman then fired a shot in the top corner near post to beat Guzan and give his side a much-needed and relieving lead.
Second half was all about extending the lead and making it impossible for a team whose starting eleven had 10 goals in them throughout this season. Early in the half, Sturridge was brought down by Clayton in a dangerous territory, Coutinho took charge of the resultant free-kick and placed his shot towards Guzan’s left side far post to score when many including the keeper were expecting it to be near post, a moment of pure magic from the Brazilian.
Five minutes later from a Middlesbrough corner, Liverpool broke down from the left side with Lallana venturing forward but couldn’t find the right pass, although the Englishman continued his run and got the knockdown from Wijnaldum to go past the last line and finish off the contest.
It could have gone the other way for Boro when they had a strong penalty claim turned down in the first half when Lovren tugged Bamford back only for referee Martin Atkinson to deem it as an accident coming together. A goal in that moment could have made Anfield a nerving place but not to be.
For Jurgen Klopp and his managerial time so far at Liverpool, it is certainly a progress in the top 4 which is a massive improvement on last season’s 8th place. The greater challenge now awaits for him and his players with Champions League qualifier to get through and before that improve the team on all fronts to challenge for more than one competitions next season.