As the clock ticked down on Liverpool’s unsuccessful bid to win their first English title in 29 years, a defiant refrain echoed around Anfield as all four sides of the famous old stadium chanted “We shall not be moved, we’re the team that’s gonna win the European Cup”.
Liverpool fell just a point short in the title race after Manchester City retained the Premier League crown with their 4-1 victory at Brighton.
But the Anfield faithful were determined to remind the world that Sunday’s 2-0 win against Wolves in their last domestic game of the season wasn’t the end of an incredible campaign for Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp’s side hope to turn the agony of their title near-miss into the ecstasy of a sixth European Cup when they face Tottenham in the Champions League final on June 1.
Tuesday’s miraculous 4-0 win against Barcelona erased a 3-0 first-leg deficit and sent Liverpool to their second successive Champions League final, ensuring their last shot at winning the title for this season didn’t feel quite so painful.
“It’s disappointing. It’s not the most wonderful moment. But 97 points is incredible,” Klopp said.
“It was an unbelievable season. In any other country that would have been enough easily.
“But no problem, that’s the competition we are in. I have to say congratulations to City.
“They played an incredible season. We did as well, but they won it.”
City’s remarkable consistency meant Liverpool have to settle for second place — the fifth time they have been runners-up since they were last crowned kings of English football in 1990.
But Sadio Mane’s double gave them 97 points — the third highest total in Premier League history behind only City’s tallies this season and last.
Liverpool, beaten only once all season in the league, also equalled the club’s top-flight record of 30 wins, set over 42 matches in 1978-79, after recording a ninth consecutive league victory.
No wonder Liverpool were given a standing ovation when the final whistle sounded.
Ninety minutes earlier, under picture-perfect blue skies, fans arrived at Anfield more in hope than expectation.
– Ear-splitting noise –
As ever, Liverpool made a fast start and Senegal winger Mane gave them hope of an astonishing finale in the 17th minute.
Mane started the move with a sweeping pass wide to Trent Alexander-Arnold on the right and the defender slipped the ball back to Jordan Henderson.
Delivering a precise return pass, Henderson sent Alexander-Arnold racing away and his low cross deflected into the path of Mane, who fired home from close range.
The ear-splitting noise around Anfield spoke of renewed faith as Liverpool moved to the top of the as-it-stands table while City were being held by Brighton.
Ten minutes later there was an even louder roar when the news filtered through that Glenn Murray had put Brighton ahead.
Even Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool manager when they last the won the title, was scrambling to check the score on his phone.
“It’s difficult in that situation to keep calm. I thought it was an equaliser for Brighton. I didn’t know until now that they had gone ahead,” Klopp admitted.
“But it is clear when the atmosphere wasn’t so ecstatic anymore that something happened at Brighton that we weren’t so happy with.”
But, just as fans erupted in scarf-waving delight, seconds later they learned of Sergio Aguero’s equaliser for City, triggering an agonised wail of frustration from supporters holding their heads in their hands.
After a false alarm when Liverpool fans celebrated what they wrongly thought was a second Brighton goal, it was the taunting cheers of Wolves supporters in one corner of the stadium that broke the news that City had scored again.
Needing a Brighton goal hundreds of miles away on the south coast more than they needed to do anything else themselves, both Liverpool and the crowd were flat at the start of the second half.
When Riyad Mahrez effectively wrapped up the title with City’s third goal, Wolves fans delighted in chanting “Raheem Sterling he’s top of the league” in reference to the former Liverpool winger now playing for the champions.
By the time Mane turned in Alexander-Arnold’s cross in the 81st minute, all thoughts had turned to the bid for European glory.
Warning Tottenham that Liverpool are ready to take out their frustrations in the final, Klopp said: “We are ready to make the next step and we will make the next step. That is the plan from tomorrow on.”