Premier League race for Europe: Liverpool and Chelsea clinch top four spots

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https://www.sportinglife.com/-By Sporting Life

The race for Europe was still in the balance with one Premier League game of the season to play. We round up the action on a to-and-fro final day.

Liverpool | 3rd | 69 points

A win over Crystal Palace was always going to be enough for Liverpool to secure a place in next season’s Champions League, provided Leicester didn’t come up with a four-goal swing against Tottenham. It meant they were huge favourites heading into the final day.

And they didn’t disappoint as they beat the Eagles 2-0 in Roy Hodgson’s final game in charge.

Liverpool’s late surge in form was impressive, but their run to the top four will be best remembered for a dramatic last-minute winner from goalkeeper Alisson against West Brom, without which they would likely be playing Europa League football in 2021/22.

 

Chelsea | 4th | 67 points

To say Chelsea stumbled over the line into the top four is an understatement.

Defeat to Leicester in the FA Cup final was a bitter blow for Thomas Tuchel’s side, but they did manage to bounce back in the league tie with victory against the Foxes just days later – which proved crucial.

Tuchel’s men lost 2-1 at Aston Villa on the final day, but got away with it thanks to Tottenham doing them a favour.

Leicester | 5th | 66 points

Despite beating Chelsea in the FA Cup final, Leicester’s defeat to the Blues in the league the following Tuesday put a serious dent in their hopes of a top-four finish – a blow they wouldn’t recover from.

They twice led Tottenham in their final game, and Aston Villa even did them a favour by beating Chelsea at Villa Park, but a late capitulation from Brendan Rodgers’ side saw them lose 4-2 and fall out of the Champions League places on the final day for the second successive season.

West Ham | 6th | 65 points

West Ham were in a great position to claim an unlikely fourth-placed finish, but a run of three losses from four games, followed by a 1-1 draw at Brighton, left them scratching around to finish in the top six.

But a 3-1 midweek win over West Brom meant David Moyes’ side held all the cards in the top-six race heading into the final day, with a draw being enough to confirm Europa League spot.

And they duly delivered, thrashing Southampton 3-0 to coast home.

 

Tottenham | 7th | 62 points

Spurs’ 3-1 defeat at Leeds all-but ended their chances of a top-four finish, and the best they could hope for heading into the final day was a place in next season’s Europa League – something that became a long shot after a 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa in midweek.

They did finish with a flourish though, winning 4-2 at Leicester to clinch seventh place and qualification for the inaugural Europa Conference League.

 

Final day timeline: How top four battle played out

4:16pm: Chelsea and Leicester in top four

Leicester moved into the top four at Liverpool’s expense after Jamie Vardy’s penalty gave them the lead over Tottenham.

4:35pm: Liverpool and Leicester in top four:

Sadio Mane fired Liverpool ahead at home to Crystal Palace, lifting them up to third and nudging Chelsea down to fifth.

4:40pm: Liverpool and Chelsea in top four

Harry Kane’s equaliser at Leicester means the Foxes are out of the top four, with Chelsea back in.

4:44pm: Liverpool and Chelsea in top four

Bertrand Traore’s goal gave Villa the lead against Chelsea, meaning just goal difference kept Thomas Tuchel’s team above Leicester and in the top four.

5:09pm: Liverpool and Leicester in top four

Jamie Vardy’s spot-kick put Leicester back into the top four, with Chelsea dropping out.

5:13pm: Liverpool and Leicester in top four

Anwar El Ghazi’s penalty left Chelsea two goals down and apparently facing an uphill task to get back into the top four.

5:19pm: Liverpool and Leicester in top four

Blues’ hopes of a comeback at Villa Park were not helped when Timo Werner’s goal was ruled out for offside.

5:30pm: Liverpool and Leicester in top four

The Blues are given hope by Ben Chilwell’s goal.

5:33pm: Liverpool and Chelsea in top four

Davinson Sanchez nodded Son Heung-min’s corner goalwards and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel appeared to get the final touch as the ball ended up in the net for Tottenham’s equaliser – nudging Brendan Rodgers’ team out of the top four positions.

5:35pm: Liverpool and Chelsea in top four

Liverpool’s job looked to have been completed when Mane’s shot deflected in via Gary Cahill to give the hosts a 2-0 lead Anfield.

5:44pm: Liverpool and Chelsea in top four

Gareth Bale’s goal gave Spurs a 3-2 lead and ended Leicester’s hopes of Champions League action.

5:52pm: Liverpool and Chelsea in top four

Bale gets his second goal and caps a bad day for Leicester, who have to settle for Europa League action next season.

 

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