Premier League 2018-19 finale: The runners-up

Just the first step: Klopp

Defender Virgil van Dijk (left), PFA Player of the Year, getting a pat from Golden Glove winner Alisson after Liverpool beat Wolves 2-0 at Anfield yesterday. There were personal accolades aplenty for the Reds but no trophy. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Defender Virgil van Dijk (left), PFA Player of the Year, getting a pat from Golden Glove winner Alisson after Liverpool beat Wolves 2-0 at Anfield yesterday. There were personal accolades aplenty for the Reds but no trophy. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Reds boss says 'no one is crying' as he shrugs off near miss and looks ahead to next season

LONDON • The first anybody knew about it was the tinny roar from the Wolves end.

It was the news every Liverpool supporter had been dreading and, football being the sport of schadenfreude, there was not a great deal of sympathy coming from the Wolves fans who, for only one day, had chosen to serenade Manchester City, champions of England once again.

That was the moment when everyone associated with the Reds had to confront the harsh realities of trying to overhaul a side of City's durability, knowing now that 97 points were not going to be enough and that a season of sustained brilliance was not going to get its happy ending.

Not in the Premier League, anyway.

A few minutes earlier, the updates from Brighton had told a desperate, longing crowd that City were losing. Now everything had been turned upside down.

The Wolves fans were singing about City striker Sergio Aguero and, cruelly, "You nearly won the league". Later, the same thing happened all over again - twice, in fact - and by that stage, everybody knew that Liverpool's 29-year wait for a league title was not going to end.

Of course, Liverpool being Liverpool, they were determined not to let everything fizzle out with a sudden, damp silence.

  • FINAL DAY

  • Brighton 1 Manchester City 4

    Burnley 1 Arsenal 3

    Crystal Palace 5 Bournemouth 3

    Fulham 0 Newcastle 4

    Leicester 0 Chelsea 0

    Liverpool 2 Wolves 0

    Manchester United 0 Cardiff 2

    Southampton 1 Huddersfield 1

    Tottenham 2 Everton 2

    Watford 1 West Ham 4

  • 1990

    The last time Liverpool won the English league title.

    97

    Liverpool's points tally is the highest for runners-up in the English top flight. The previous mark was Manchester United's 89 points in 2011-12, when they lost the title on goal difference to Manchester City.

    25

    Goals after the 75th minute in Liverpool's games, the most in the Premier League by a distance. Chelsea are next with 19, while City have 13.

    22

    Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, last year's top scorer, shared the Golden Boot with teammate Sadio Mane and Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who both scored twice on the final day.

Anfield was far too proud to sulk and so was Jurgen Klopp. The Liverpool manager told Sky Sports: "I know people will find always something (we could've done more).

"We had lucky moments, City had lucky moments, so to get 97 points is not always about outplaying opponents. This is a first step, that's how we see it - it's the majority of players that we had last season, so if we take the same step again... what a season that will be.

"In the past, always when I had a successful team, the players were picked off - that won't happen this time. There isn't anyone crying here. You always use one step as the basis for the next step."

Liverpool won for the ninth consecutive time in the league, courtesy of Sadio Mane's brace to mark the first time in 39 years they have gone successive seasons without losing a single fixture on their own ground.

They have equalled their club record of winning 30 times, the last time that happened was in 1979 over a 42-match season, and there is the small matter of a Champions League final to come.

Ultimately, though, the only detail that mattered here is they had finished second - 97 points being the best runners-up finish in league history - but second, all the same.

At the final whistle, it could not have been easy for Klopp and his players to try to disguise all that raw disappointment, especially on a day in which Liverpool, for 21 minutes, had been top on the table.

Mane's opener arrived in the 17th minute and, in that first half, it was difficult to comprehend how the afternoon would finish, or what could be believed and what could not.

Briefly, there was pandemonium as Brighton led City 1-0 on 27 minutes. The next update came barely a minute later - a goal for City. Soon afterwards, there was another one, and the next updates were all grievous setbacks.

All the Liverpool players could really worry about was making sure they did their part against Wolves, whose seventh-placed finish is the best of any promoted side since Ipswich ended in fifth in 2001.

But they kept going. Mane's second came nine minutes from time, putting him level with teammate Mohamed Salah in a three-way tie with Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the Golden Boot on 22 goals, while Alisson won the Golden Glove award with 21 clean sheets.

That, however, was not the prize the trio wanted. Afterwards, Salah told Sky Sports: "We did everything this season, we lost only one game. We got 97 points.

"I say congratulations to City and we will fight again next season for this trophy."

Elsewhere, Chelsea took third place following their goal-less draw at Leicester and Tottenham are fourth after a 2-2 draw with Everton.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2019, with the headline 'Just the first step: Klopp'. Print Edition | Subscribe