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Now for Real Madrid! Salah seals Liverpool's Champions League spot with a stroll in the sunshine

20:05 GMT+4 13/05/2018
Mohamed Salah Liverpool
Jurgen Klopp's side have delivered their main objective for the season - now can they make history in Ukraine against Real Madrid on May 26

As Sundays go, this was close to perfect.

Liverpool booked their place in next season’s Champions League in style. The sun shone, the goals returned, Mo Salah broke another record. Rafa Benitez did his bit and Dominic Solanke scored, clinically. So did Andy Robertson. The Kop sung. The relief washed over Anfield like a cool summer breeze.

Job done. Now for Kiev.

Jurgen Klopp could hardly have wished for a better game to prepare for his side’s forthcoming Champions League final. A draw would have done, but Liverpool got plenty more. They got a walk in the park.

And, crucially, that top-four spot.

Just reward, you must say. Anything else would have been remarkably harsh on a side that has played the way Klopp’s has this season. Liverpool shouldn’t really have had to sweat until the final day of the season, if we’re being honest.

Not that they did much sweating here, mind. This was as comfortable a ‘decider’ as you could wish for. Liverpool ended the campaign on a high, and with momentum to take into their date with destiny in two weeks’ time.

For starters, there was Salah, ending his three-game scoring drought and reaching yet another milestone. His confident swept finish in front of the Kop, 26 minutes in, was his 32nd league goal of the season – a record in a 38-game Premier League campaign. Cristiano Ronaldo, Alan Shearer, Luis Suarez, Thierry Henry, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Didier Drogba; they’ve all been left in his wake.

The Egyptian, quiet for a fortnight, was back to his imperious best here. The touch was sure, the runs were purposeful, the threat was permanent. He finished with a goal and an assist, as well as the Premier League golden boot. A nice boost ahead of Real Madrid on May 26.

Beyond that, Klopp can take pride in the way his team approached this potential banana-skin. Liverpool’s hunger and mentality, he says, is beyond question, and his players backed those words up here. Confident, alert, aggressive and ready to work and to play, they had too much for a Brighton side whose goal had been achieved nine days ago.

Liverpool’s team for the final picks itself at the moment, so it was reassuring to see so many of those starters looking sharp. Brighton may not have offered much by way of resistance, but a football match is as easy as you make it. Liverpool made this very, very easy.

There was authority from Virgil van Dijk – what a huge role he and Dejan Lovren will have in Kiev – and improvement from Trent Alexander-Arnold ahead of the biggest night of his life. Robertson enjoyed his first Reds goal in his 29th appearance, while Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum were full of presence in midfield. James Milner, Klopp hopes, will be fit to join them against Real Madrid after missing this game with a minor injury.

Klopp will also have been heartened by the sight of Solanke breaking his own Liverpool duck, after 27 appearances and 670 minutes. The England international’s finish was that of a confident man, while there was an encouraging late cameo from Adam Lallana too - returning from injury at just the right time perhaps? Liverpool will need options in Kiev.

Klopp and his players will head off to the sunshine next week for some warm-weather training and team bonding ahead of the final. They’ve earned it.

Whatever happens in Kiev, the Reds will be playing Champions League football next season. Whatever happens in Kiev, this has been a season of progress at Anfield. Klopp has built a team that supporters can be proud of, that can be a joy to watch and maybe, just maybe, can bring success to the club too.

Objective number one is accomplished; now can Liverpool put the cherry on the cake on May 26? What a party there will be if they can...