Liverpool warmed-up for the Champions League final in style by ensuring they are back in the competition next season as Mohamed Salah set a new Premier League record of 32 goals in a 4-0 thrashing of Brighton on Sunday.
Victory for Liverpool meant it didn’t matter what fifth-placed Chelsea did at Newcastle, but they failed to put any sort of pressure on the Champions League finalists by succumbing limply to a 3-0 defeat at St. James’s Park.
Gabriel Jesus’s stoppage time winner for Manchester City in a 1-0 victory at Southampton saw the champions set another record landmark by becoming the first side in English top flight history to reach 100 points.
At the other end of the table, Swansea’s seven-season stay in the Premier League came to an end as they were relegated to the Championship after a 2-1 defeat by Stoke.
Liverpool faced the uncomfortable scenario of travelling to Kiev to face the might of Real Madrid in the Champions League final on May 26 having to win to qualify for next season’s competition had results gone against them.
However, there was little doubt over the outcome once Salah eased any nerves by swivelling to strike his first goal in four games on 26 minutes to take his tally in all competitions this season to 44.
“I’m really proud of the boys, a nearly perfect season,” said Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.
“We had no chance to challenge Man City so the only thing you can go for is a Champions League spot. It is a big thing.”
Salah’s strike also saw him secure the Premier League Golden Boot to add to his multiple Player of the Year accolades.
“He was fantastic,” Klopp added. “I can’t imagine how difficult it must be if everybody tells you every day how brilliant you are but not only that, they give you an Oscar, an award for this and award for that, for getting out of the car without an accident.
“It is really difficult to stay focused but he is focused. He now has two weeks to prepare for our biggest game.”
Dejan Lovren, Dominic Solanke and Andy Robertson were also on target as Klopp could even afford the luxury of substituting Salah in the second-half.
Liverpool were under little pressure all afternoon as Chelsea slumped to a 10th Premier League defeat of the season in the north-east.
Dwight Gayle and two goals for Ayoze Perez piled ever more pressure on Chelsea boss Antonio Conte just six days ahead of what could be the Italian’s final game in charge in the FA Cup final against Manchester United.
“Newcastle showed greater desire and fight, and if we play like this in the FA Cup final we don’t have a chance,” said Conte.
– City hit 100 –
City’s victory also saw them set a record Premier League margin of victory of 19 points from Manchester United, who won 1-0 over Watford at Old Trafford.
“When you win for 100 points it’s something special for the club,” said City manager Pep Guardiola. “I think it’s a record that will stay for a long time.”
England manager Gareth Southgate will name his World Cup squad later this week, and there was plenty of encouragement for Southgate as three of his strikers were on target.
Marcus Rashford scored his first goal since March for United’s winner, whilst Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane both struck twice at Wembley as Tottenham came from 3-1 down to beat Leicester 5-4 and hold off Liverpool to finish third.
Kane cancelled out Vardy’s early opener before Riyad Mahrez restored Leicester’s lead and Kelechi Iheanacho’s smashed home a third for the visitors early in the second-half.
An Erik Lamela double and Christian Fuchs own goal to put Spurs in front before Vardy levelled with his 20th league goal of the campaign.
However, Kane had the final say with his 41st of the season to head to the World Cup in fine form.
Arsenal gave Arsene Wenger a parting gift in his final game as manager after 22 years in charge by winning their first points away from home in the Premier League in 2018 with a 1-0 win at Huddersfield.
“Of course it is very emotional after 1,235 games for the same club,” said Wenger. “To enjoy it we had to win it. Winning football games is what makes me happy and the boys did it.”
Club record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang netted his 10th goal in 13 games since joining in January by finishing off the sort of free-flowing move that Wenger has made his trademark as Gunners boss. – AFP