(Photo credit: @LFC Twitter handle)
LIVERPOOL: Liverpool were crowned Premier League champions on Thursday as Chelsea’s win over Manchester City ended the Reds’ 30-year wait to win the English title, with jubilant fans ignoring social-distancing guidelines to converge on Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp’s men sealed a 19th league title with a record seven games remaining after defeat for second-placed City left the champions for the past two seasons 23 points adrift.
Liverpool, who were tantalisingly close to glory when the coronavirus forced the shutdown of English football in March, demolished Crystal Palace 4-0 at their home ground of Anfield on Wednesday to stand on the brink of the title.
City needed to win at Stamford Bridge to keep the Premier League alive but slipped to a 2-1 defeat.
Liverpool tweeted “We’re Premier League champions!!” seconds after the final whistle while Manchester City tweeted their congratulations.
“It’s such a big moment, I am completely overwhelmed,” an emotional Klopp told Sky Sports. “Tonight it is for you out there.
“It’s incredible. I hope you stay at home, or go in front of your house if you want, but not more. We do it together in this moment and it is a joy to do it for you.”
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson hailed Klopp’s transformational impact on the club.
“We followed him and believed him,” he said. “It’s been an amazing journey. I’m hoping there is more. We just keep hungry, keep wanting more and following him.
“The biggest thing is no matter what, we all follow him, believe in him and he’s taken us to this point.”
Thousands of Liverpool fans, many in face masks, streamed towards Anfield despite restrictions still in place due to COVID-19.
They lit flares and sang songs. Cars also gathered outside the ground, with some beeping horns as they passed.
Liverpool have clinched the title earlier than any other Premier League champions, breaking the previous record of five games left shared by City and Manchester United.
But it has been an agonising wait for Liverpool fans across the world, with the coronavirus lockdown forcing them to put the champagne on ice.
Videos on social media showed many of Liverpool’s players watching the Chelsea match together at a hotel.
“We won’t tell you the exact location but we are all in a hotel together as a team,” Liverpool star Andrew Robertson told the BBC.
“We thought something hopefully special was going to happen and that’s how it turned out.”
Liverpool spent years in the shadow of arch-rivals Manchester United during the Alex Ferguson era before being left behind by the massive spending of Manchester City and Chelsea.
They infamously squandered a golden opportunity to win the title in 2014 under manager Brendan Rodgers, when Reds captain Steven Gerrard made his costly slip in a late-season defeat against Chelsea.
But Klopp’s team are deserved champions after an incredible campaign that could end in record-breaking style.
Liverpool, who are now one title behind Manchester United’s English record haul of 20, are on course to beat Manchester City’s record points total of 100 set in 2017/18.
Klopp, the first German manager to win the Premier League, has been the architect of Liverpool’s renaissance since the former Borussia Dortmund boss arrived at Anfield in 2015.
Infusing his players with a belief in his “heavy metal” football and high-tempo “gegen-pressing” game-plan, the charismatic Klopp has earned his place alongside Liverpool’s iconic former managers Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish.
“He epitomises everything that Liverpool Football Club stands for. He appreciates it, he respects everyone who works at he club,” Dalglish said of the man to succeed him as the latest Liverpool manager to win the league.
Klopp led the club to the Champions League last season, but Liverpool were pipped to the Premier League title by City despite finishing with a record 97 points for top-flight runners-up.
But with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino forming a formidable front three, Henderson a tireless presence in midfield and Virgil van Dijk imperious at the back, Liverpool have left City trailing in their wake this season.
“That is the reality, that we are so far behind,” said City boss Pep Guardiola. “Liverpool were fantastic in consistency throughout the whole season.”