Liverpool 5 Chelsea 3: Fireworks inside and outside Anfield as Reds lift title after eight-goal thriller

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LIVERPOOL fans were in dreamland last night after FINALLY lifting the Premier League trophy.

Klopp’s men thumped Chelsea in a 5-3 thriller in their final home game of the season.

BREAKING | A Dispersal Zone is now in place outside #Anfield Stadium following increased numbers of people gathering near to the ground tonight. Please don’t put yourselves and others at risk, the best view of the trophy presentation will be on the TV. pic.twitter.com/oj8SyF72Yk

The Reds celebrated their first title in 30 years in front of friends and family on the Kop — while Frank Lampard knows his team’s campaign remains in the balance.

Defeat at Anfield leaves Chelsea needing a point against Wolves on Sunday to make certain of Champions League football, six days before their FA Cup final against Arsenal.

Achieve that point and lift the Cup and Lampard’s first season in charge of his beloved club will be deemed a roaring success. 

Lose out on both fronts and — for all his personal goodwill and all the mitigation about a transfer ban and a blooming youth policy — Lampard will have failed.

After Liverpool raced into a three-goal lead with bangers from Naby Keita, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Gini Wijnaldum, Chelsea almost staged a  dramatic comeback.

But after Roberto Firmino, the title-winning No 9, finally scored his first home league goal of the season, Christian Pulisic’s efforts proved in vain as the American made one for Tammy Abraham and helped himself to another. 

Chelsea are still fretting over their top-four status largely because they have only kept one clean sheet away from home all season.

Klopp will not consider Chelsea genuine title rivals next season unless they perform some major surgery at the back.

Lampard’s side will make the top four even with a defeat, if there is a positive result in the six-pointer between Leicester and Manchester United, but they cannot rely on that.

Even with Anfield empty, Liverpool would have enjoyed lifting the trophy all the more with Chelsea in town. 

Theirs is a fierce modern rivalry, beginning in the Mourinho-Benitez era, and it was Chelsea who had denied the Reds in the most agonising near miss of their 30-year wait, when Steven Gerrard slipped and Demba Ba pounced in 2014.

Manchester United’s failure to defeat West Ham left Lampard’s men needing only a point to qualify for the Champions League.

Having taken United to the cleaners in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final, they were determined to capitalise on a dodgy display from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men for the second time in four days.

Lampard, so often a tinkerman, stuck with the side which won so convincingly at Wembley.

Chelsea had given the champions their guard of honour but showed  little respect in the early stages. 

And one of Sunday’s scorers, Mason Mount, should have opened the scoring within eight minutes when he met a Reece James centre with a near-post header but could not keep his effort down.

Liverpool had not been at their imperious best since securing the title — and blowing points against Burnley and Arsenal had ended their hopes of beating Manchester City’s record haul of 100 points. 

Klopp’s men rarely threatened until midway through the first half – but when they did, Keita was lethal.

Willian, under pressure from Wijnaldum with his back to goal, lost possession to Keita who let fly from long range and clattered his shot in off the underside of the bar in the 23rd minute. 

Then, Liverpool were rampant — reminding us exactly why they would be lifting that trophy later in the evening.

Their second goal had an element of controversy — Lampard and his staff were raging when ref Andre Marriner awarded a free-kick against Mateo Kovacic when Sadio Mane seemed to have been looking for it.

The visitors knew what Alexander-Arnold was capable of — he had scored a free-kick against them at Stamford Bridge earlier this season and he’d done the same against Crystal Palace shortly after restart.

This time the Scouse Roberto Carlos bent in his effort from 30 yards, Kepa Arrizabalaga barely moving his feet on 38 minutes.

It was the moment when the absence of a crowd was felt most keenly — the brilliant local lad scoring a belter on a night of celebration would have brought the old house down.

Two minutes before the break, it was even worse for Chelsea. Lampard’s men defended chaotically from a corner — as they have a habit of doing — Marcos Alonso probably guilty of handball but Wijnaldum thumping home to make the penalty shout irrelevant.

Chelsea gave themselves just a glimmer in first-half injury-time when Willian’s shot was pushed up in the air by Allison and Olivier  Giroud bundled it across the line.

After that, another moment for the Red Army to savour as Firmino finally scored his Anfield league goal by leaping above Cesar Azpilicueta  to head home an Alexander-Arnold cross ten minutes after half-time. 

It was his 12th assist of the season, for the second campaign in a row, astonishing stuff from a young man of 22 who is one of the best attacking full-backs on the planet.

Chelsea were not willing to accept their fate and two subs combined to reduce the deficit, Pulisic slaloming down the left and crossing low for Tammy Abraham to slot home just after the hour mark.

As the fireworks were ignited outside Anfield, old stager James Milner arrived, along with Scouse kid Curtis Jones, for an appearance which would assure him of a title winner’s medal.

But Pulisic, channelling his inner Eden Hazard, still had something to say — his chest down, turn and shot making it 4-3 with 18 minutes left.

Chelsea were threatening an equaliser but from their own attacking free-kick, Liverpool broke, Andy Robertson swept in a cross and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain finished the job.

 

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