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Liverpool fall just short but will use title disappointment to drive European success

Mohamed Salah celebrates his goal against Wolves
Mohamed Salah scored his 23rd league goal of the season late on to put Liverpool ahead against Wolves

As Mohamed Salah celebrated his late strike to put Liverpool ahead against Wolves on Sunday, just for a moment he appeared to think it was the Premier League title-winning goal.

His close-range effort put the Reds 2-1 up with six minutes remaining. Had it been scored just a few minutes earlier then Jurgen Klopp’s side would have felt they had one hand on the trophy.

With 76 minutes gone over at Etihad Stadium, Manchester City, who needed a win to guarantee the title, were trailing 2-0, with Liverpool fans having relayed news of each goal to the players at Anfield with huge roars of encouragement.

But five minutes later Pep Guardiola’s side led 3-2 and that brief moment of belief was extinguished.

On a rollercoaster day of emotions and high drama it was understandable there were false dawns and moments of confusion.

Even Klopp, often so capable of shutting out distractions, was caught out in the final few minutes as another roar went up from a section of the crowd, implying there had been more drama at the Etihad.

“There was one moment when I heard 3-2 and then for a second, I don’t know why we started it, I thought they had equalised,” said the German. “It was a good moment but it was only a second.”

In the end it wasn’t to be but at the final whistle there was not a sense of disappointment, rather appreciation for what Liverpool have already achieved in a season that could yet end with a treble of major trophies.

An emotional rollercoaster of a day

Even before the game the feeling among fans around Anfield was one of hope and not expectation.

Liverpool had gone from a seemingly insurmountable deficit of 14 points in January – albeit with the Reds having two games in hand – to ultimately finishing just one point shy of the champions.

Despite the odds not being in their side’s favour, Liverpool supporters did their bit to drive on their players in case the unlikely could happen.

The build-up to Sunday’s game had a cup final feel to it, with cars flying Liverpool flags out of their windows and houses on the walk to Anfield from the city centre adorned in the club’s colours.

Before kick-off, the streets around the stadium were a sea of red, with the arrival of the team coach greeted by cheers and flares, a sight that has become a regular feature of big games during the Klopp era.

Liverpool fans lined the streets and let off smoke flares when the Liverpool team bus arrived
Liverpool fans lined the streets and let off flares when the team bus arrived

Once inside the ground the fans played their part as the 12th man. After a brief moment of stunned silence at Wolves taking a third-minute lead, they returned to roaring on their side, getting to their feet at news of each Aston Villa goal to try to urge their players to find that bit more.

Sadio Mane’s 24th-minute equaliser meant that, from the moment City went behind after 37 minutes to the moment Ilkay Gundogan struck the title-winning goal in the 81st minute, Liverpool were just one goal away from a second title under Klopp.

Liverpool celebrate scoring
Sadio Mane’s equaliser was met by incredible noise as Anfield started to believe the title was on

The Reds’ fans vociferous support looked like it might be rewarded in the final 10 minutes as Salah’s 23rd goal of the season – which secured him a share of the Golden Boot – and a late Andrew Robertson strike earned win number 28 in the Premier League.

They were the final league goals of an incredible campaign for the Reds – but in the end they came up just short to a brilliant City side.

“The boys played an incredible season,” said Klopp. “The whole journey of 2021-22 so far is absolutely exceptional.

“Congratulations to Manchester City and Pep Guardiola, all staff and all players, the whole club, for being champions. We were close but in the end not close enough.”

A spur for Champions League success

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp leads a lap of honour at full time
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp leads a lap of honour at full time

City’s season is complete but for Liverpool there is one more trophy on the line as they now switch their focus to Saturday’s Champions League final against Real Madrid in Paris.

While the dream of a quadruple is over, the opportunity for a treble is very much alive.

For Klopp, there is no greater incentive needed for his players to find that bit extra than the outcome of Sunday’s Premier League finale.

“We will try absolutely everything,” he added.

“It’s never happened before that you go completely without knocks into a final. We had our knocks.

“Losing the league today increases the desire to win next week.”

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