EPL

Liverpool champions: Where the title was won and lost

By Sports Desk July 02, 2020

Having finally ended their wait for a breakthrough Premier League title, Liverpool will face the team they dethroned as champions, Manchester City, on Thursday.

Jurgen Klopp's men led the way as early as August and never relinquished their grasp on first place.

Unlike in the near misses in 2008-09, 2013-14 and 2018-19, the Reds would not be caught, with Manchester City and the rest of the Premier League trailing in their wake as they secured top-flight silverware for the first time since 1990.

They will receive a guard of honour at the Etihad Stadium, with City's 2-1 loss at Chelsea last week clinching the championship.e

However, there were a number of key results along the way. We take a look.
 

Norwich City 3-2 Manchester City - September 14

Pep Guardiola's side blinked first in the title race. Although City had already dropped points at home to Tottenham before visiting Norwich, it appeared the defending champions would again match Liverpool stride for stride. But one of the upsets of the season sent shockwaves through the division in matchweek five.

City lost Aymeric Laporte to a knee ligament injury the previous weekend, and John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi endured a miserable evening as Kenny McLean, Todd Cantwell and Teemu Pukki scored at Carrow Road. Liverpool had earlier come from behind to beat Newcastle United, establishing a strong early advantage.

Sheffield United 0-1 Liverpool - September 28

Liverpool did eventually drop points for the first time against Manchester United in October, but their winning start continued to that point despite a serious test against newly promoted Sheffield United.

The Blades have been a surprise package this season and were perhaps good value for a point against Klopp's men, only for an uncharacteristic error by goalkeeper Dean Henderson - on loan from rivals United - to gift Georginio Wijnaldum a precious 70th-minute winner.

Aston Villa 1-2 Liverpool - November 2

It is often said that the best teams win even when they do not play well, and the victory at Sheffield United was far from unique in that sense. Indeed, at Villa Park, Liverpool were heading for defeat until the 87th minute.

However, Andy Robertson stole in for a late equaliser, and then Sadio Mane incredibly clinched victory in the fourth minute of stoppage time. It was the second such comeback from the Reds in two weeks, having previously rallied against Tottenham at Anfield in a crucial stretch that included a dramatic win over Leicester City and their 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.

Liverpool 3-1 Manchester City - November 10

And eight days on from the win at Villa, Liverpool increased their lead at the top of the table to eight points with victory over City, who were left a further point back in fourth. With the Reds' failure to beat Guardiola's side home or away in 2018-19 proving costly, this success represented a huge boost.

The match was not without its controversies, however, as City fumed at an apparent Trent Alexander-Arnold handball in the build-up to Fabinho's opener. The right-back looked to be guilty of the same offence again late in the game, with no penalty given, as Mohamed Salah and Mane also netted in a mammoth triumph.

Liverpool 2-0 Watford - December 14

Along with the run of fixtures leading into that City game, December represented a key spell for Liverpool as their title bid was disrupted by the Club World Cup. Watford would be the side to finally beat the Reds in February and, in the final match before the FIFA tournament, they gave it a good go at Anfield, too.

Nigel Pearson's first game in charge of the Hornets saw Liverpool troubled throughout, and not until Salah struck his second in the 90th minute were the points made safe.

Leicester City 0-4 Liverpool - December 26

Liverpool won the Club World Cup in Qatar, but it was like they had never been away when their league campaign resumed on Boxing Day. Leicester were second when the teams met but were blown away on their own patch.

Roberto Firmino opened the scoring before the break and then netted again, along with James Milner and Alexander-Arnold, in a ruthless eight-minute second-half spell. City lost at Wolves the following day - their second defeat of December - and the title race already looked to have been run.

Tottenham 2-0 Manchester City - February 2

Liverpool were relentless over the festive period, and their rivals' struggles meant Klopp's side could even afford a slow restart following the February mid-season break. Any slim City hopes of a spectacular pursuit of the Anfield club were surely already over in defeat at Tottenham prior to the weekend off.

Ilkay Gundogan missed a penalty, Oleksandr Zinchenko was sent off, and Steven Bergwijn and Son Heung-min netted. Bernardo Silva subsequently moaned City "gave up a bit too soon" in the title race. When Guardiola's men went down 2-0 again at Manchester United a month later, Liverpool were on the brink.

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    After 30 years without a league title, Liverpool finally ended their drought this season, blowing away the competition as they finished 2019-20 18 points clear of second-placed Manchester City.

    Their haul of 99 points is the second-highest in the competition's history, while they wrapped it up with seven games to go – a feat no side has ever accomplished before.

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    Nevertheless, Alisson felt it had been a draining season and he put that down to the drive of Klopp and his plans to keep improving the club's fortunes.

    "This was one of the most exhausting seasons I've ever had," Alisson told ESPN Brasil. "I don't know if it was due to the pandemic, the longer season... It was also one of the seasons I played less games because of injuries.

    "We got out of the Champions League early, but I think this exhaustion comes from just giving everything we have every time. Klopp has a great portion of that, just telling us what the main objective is.

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    "We think as one, we all have the same objective, and that is doing everything we can to get those goals, laying it all out mentally and physically."

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    ROUND-UP

    - Could Antonio Conte leave Inter after just one season? The Inter head coach took aim at the club after their final game of the Serie A season – a 2-0 win over Atalanta on Saturday to secure second spot behind Juventus. Conte claimed neither he nor his players were protected by the club amid criticism. Now, Sky Sport Italia, SportMediaset, La Gazzetta dello Sport, Tuttosport and Corriere dello Sport claim the damage is irreparable. With Conte facing an uncertain future, former Juve head coach Massimiliano Allegri and ex-Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino have emerged as possible replacements.

    - Le10Sport reports Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang wants Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele to join the Gunners. Dembele has been linked with a move away from the LaLiga giants, who are reportedly trying to raise transfer funds through sales. Aubameyang himself has been linked to Barca, as well as Paris Saint-Germain and United previously.

    Milan are ready to sell Lucas Paqueta, claims Calciomercato. Linked to PSG previously, Serie A rivals Fiorentina are interested in the Brazilian attacker and an exchange involving Viola star defender Nikola Milenkovic could take place.

    - According to the Telegraph, Sevilla defender Diego Carlos is at the top of Arsenal's transfer wish list. Premier League rivals Manchester City and Liverpool have also been credited with interest.

    - AS Diario says Real Madrid have a clear plan of when they want to pursue their transfer targets amid the coronavirus pandemic. Reluctant to spend after winning LaLiga and in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, Madrid are focusing on 2021 – PSG's Kylian Mbappe at the top of the list. Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga is also wanted next year, while Dortmund forward Erling Haaland is a 2022 target.

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    The former Borussia Dortmund forward has 70 goals in all competitions since joining the Gunners in January 2018, but his future is the subject of mounting speculation.

    Aubameyang is out of contract next year, although Arteta has repeatedly expressed confidence the Gabon international is ready to remain at Emirates Stadium.

    After his superb winning goal downed London rivals Chelsea, he was challenged by his head coach to place himself alongside the likes of Ian Wright and Thierry Henry in Arsenal history.

    "It's the most difficult thing in football, that's for sure, and he makes it simple – look at the second goal he scored," Arteta said.

    "We always had incredible strikers at this football club and Auba deserves to be named and compared with the big names.

    "By winning trophies he will be closer to that and the longer he stays there as well.

    "Hopefully we can have him for more time."

    Arteta also made a point of praising Aubameyang's work ethic – the captain leading by example in a squad where the likes of Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi have fallen shy of their boss' exacting standards.

    "The biggest problem as well was probably to convince [Aubameyang] to work the way he is working," Arteta added.

    "He was going to get more rewarded, more respected and then that respect goes from respect to admiration – admiration from his team-mates, the people who work with him and the fans.

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