Mane double sends Liverpool into Champions League after Crystal Palace victory

Sadio Mane Jurgen Klopp LiverpoolGetty Images

Liverpool ensured a nightmare season ended on a high, securing Champions League qualification with a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace at Anfield.

In front of a crowd of 10,000, Sadio Mane’s double gave the Reds a precious and comfortable victory, ensuring they finish the season third in the Premier League table.

It is Leicester who miss out on the top four, the Foxes beaten 4-2 by Tottenham at the King Power Stadium having twice led. Chelsea sneak into fourth despite a 2-1 loss of their own away at Aston Villa.

Early nerves settled 

Liverpool made a nervy start to the game, and could have found themselves behind early on when Trent Alexander-Arnold’s loose pass sent Andros Townsend racing clear. The Palace winger, though, dragged his shot wide of the far post.

The home side grew into the contest thereafter, and wasted a great chance of their own when Rhys Williams headed Andy Robertson’s corner over the bar from seven yards when totally unmarked.

Vicente Guaita denied Mohamed Salah after a superb pass from Thiago Alcantara, Robertson screwed a shot wide and Mane was wild when set up by Gini Wijnaldum, who was almost certainly making his 237th and final appearance in a red shirt. Wijnaldum was given a standing ovation when replaced by James Milner late on.

The breakthrough came on 36 minutes, Robertson’s corner glanced on by Williams and when Roberto Firmino got a touch at the far post, Mane was there to force the ball home, his 15th goal of what has been a mixed campaign for the Senegal star.

Mane seals it

It was relatively comfortable thereafter, Liverpool able to control proceedings despite the difficulties posed by a swirling wind inside the stadium.

Chances were at a premium, with Palace barely venturing near the Reds’ penalty area and Liverpool unable to convert their dominance.

That changed on 74 minutes when a swift break saw Wijnaldum and Salah combine. Salah fed Mane, and his shot took a deflection en route past Guaita for 2-0.

That killed the game as a contest, though Salah battled hard for a goal which would have earned him a share of the Golden Boot. Alas, it never came, meaning Spurs’ Harry Kane takes the prize.

Liverpool bounce back

After a campaign which threatened to go completely off the rails at one point, Klopp will be proud of his players’ response at the business end of the season.

Liverpool finished on a run of 10 league games unbeaten, eight of them victories, delivering as their rivals have faltered. 

They will now enjoy a fifth successive season in the Champions League, and a much-needed financial boost as a result.

That looked unlikely just a few weeks ago, when they trailed Leicester by as many as 10 points, but the resilience and character of the 2019-20 has shone through. They got a strong reception from their supporters, many of whom were here for the first time in 14 months, at the final whistle.