LONDON: Liverpool will be back ‘down’ in the Europa League next season; the Champions League is not for them even though they managed a 1-1 draw away to Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.
With two rounds remaining Liverpool can still manage a maximum of 68 points, the same total as that boasted now by fourth-placed Manchester United. However United have a far superior plus-25 goal difference compared with Liverpool’s plus-11.
There is no love lost between Chelsea and Liverpool whose players – including veteran captain Steven Gerrard – were constrained to give the new champions a ‘guard of honour’ as they walked out over a wide blue carpet before kickoff.
Liverpool not only showed Chelsea respect they showed too much respect. After four minutes a phalanx of red-shirted defenders stood immobile and allowed John Terry to head the hosts in front from Willian’s right-wing corner.
This was Terry’s fifth goal of a campaign which has been as outstanding personally as it has been on a club level. The goal also established Terry as the highest-scoring defender in the two-decade history of the Premier League with 39.
Liverpool, seeing their Champions League hopes fading, responded spiritedly. Gerrard headed them level just before half-time from a free kick by Jordan Henderson, his likely successor as captain after the veteran’s summer departure for LA Galaxy.
Liverpool were the more positive team in the second half but rarely raised a serious threat to Thibaut Courtois’s goal.
Gerrard received a standing ovation from the entire ground when he was substituted six minutes from the end.
Earlier Manchester City, having denied approaching Pep Guardiola about succeeding manager Manuel Pellegrini next season, secured their Champions League return with an 6-0 thrashing of Queens Park Rangers.
Defeat confirmed the Londoners’ second relegation in three years.
Premier top marksman Sergio Aguero struck a hat-trick taking him to 25 goals for the season, beating his previous best of 23 from 2011-12.
This was Aguero’s second hat-trick of the season but only his third for City with his goals coming after four,50 and 65 minutes, his third from a penalty. Aleksandar Kolarov (32), James Milner (70) and David Silva (87) completed the misery for a QPR team who played as if they felt all hope was gone from the outset.
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