London: Liverpool defeated nine-man Newcastle United to finish the season on a high note, but their hopes of a first league title in 24 years were dashed as Manchester City beat West Ham to be crowned champions.
The Reds started the day trailing City by two points with a far inferior goal difference, meaning they needed to beat Newcastle and hope City lost at home to the Hammers.
Liverpool did their job as Daniel Agger and Daniel Sturridge converted Steven Gerrard free-kicks to cancel out Martin Skrtel’s first-half own-goal.
But the result at Etihad Stadium rendered that irrelevant and Brendan Rodgers’s team were forced to settle for second place. Newcastle had had Shola Ameobi and Paul Dummett sent off.
Chelsea had to settle for third spot after coming from a goal down to win 2-1 at Cardiff City, ending a trophyless first season back in England for manager Jose Mourinho.
Tottenham Hotspur comfortably beat Aston Villa 3-0 to finish sixth and clinch a place in next season’s Europa League, meaning deposed champions Manchester United, who drew their final match of a terrible season 1-1 against Southampton, will not play in Europe next season for the first time in 24 years.
Norwich City’s relegation was confirmed with a 0-2 home defeat by Arsenal and they will join Cardiff and Fulham in the Championship next season.
There was a sense of deflation at Anfield from the moment Skrtel fly-kicked a harmless Yoan Gouffran cross past Simon Mignolet into the back of the net. Radios pressed against the ears of fans in the stands told the home crowd that City were cruising to victory and Liverpool’s wait for a top-flight title was likely to go on beyond 24 years.
The second half brought some cheer as Daniel Agger scored Liverpool’s 100th goal of the season to level by hooking in at the far post while Daniel Sturridge netted a second in as many minutes, tapping home in similar fashion.
Ameobi was sent off for dissent and Dummett for a clumsy challenge as the dejected Liverpool players were left to ponder what might have been.
“I’m absolutely devastated,” Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard said.
“Personally gutted and gutted for the fans. We can’t be too down because it’s been a great season and we have to bounce back for next season. Hopefully, we can keep improving but we have to congratulate Man City because they’ve been the best for 38 games.”
Liverpool have now finished runners-up four times since winning their last title in 1990 but, despite the disappointing end to the season, coach Brendan Rodgers was upbeat.
“We’ve been on an incredible journey this year. To finish with 12 wins and a draw is an incredible achievement,” said Rodgers.
“It was a tough game for us today so it was a great way to finish. It was unfortunate not to win the title but we’ve shown great hope for the future going forward. It's a huge privilege to be the manager of this side.” (Reuters)