Liverpool were crowned Premier League champions without kicking a ball on Thursday as Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Manchester City ended the Reds’ 30-year wait to win the English title.
Jurgen Klopp’s men sealed a 19th league title for the club with a record seven games left to play after second placed City’s defeat left them 23 points adrift.
Liverpool had moved within two points of the title with a 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace at Anfield on Wednesday. Their 28th win in 31 league games this season prompted Liverpool star Mohamed Salah to declare “now is our time to win the league” and 24 hours later his wish was granted.
Liverpool got the favour they wanted from Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Willian’s 78th minute penalty, awarded for a handball by Fernandinho, ended City’s two-year reign as champions after Kevin De Bruyne had cancelled out Christian Pulisic’s opener. Liverpool have clinched the title earlier than any other Premier League champions, breaking the previous record of five games left shared by City and Manchester United.
It has been an agonising wait for Liverpool fans across the world, with the coronavirus hiatus forcing them to put the champagne on ice after the Premier League was suspended in March with Klopp’s team two wins from the title. The three-month delay was a final obstacle on Liverpool’s long road back to the pinnacle of English football.
Liverpool spent years in the shadow of arch-rivals Manchester United during the Alex Ferguson era before being left behind by the massive spending of Manchester City and Chelsea. Then managed by Brendan Rodgers, they infamously squandered a golden opportunity to win the title in 2014 when Reds captain Steven Gerrard made his costly slip in a late-season defeat against Chelsea.
But Klopp’s team are deserved champions after an incredible campaign that could end in record-breaking style. Liverpool, who are now one title behind Manchester United’s English record haul of 20, are on course to beat Manchester City’s record points total of 100 set in 2017/18.
Klopp’s men could smash the record for the biggest winning margin, set by City when they finished 19 points clear at the top in that same season. They are also within touching distance of the most victories in a Premier League season — 32 by City in 2017/18 and 2018/19.
We can play pretty good
Klopp, the first German manager to win the Premier League, has been the architect of Liverpool’s renaissance since the former Borussia Dortmund boss arrived at Anfield in 2015. Infusing his players with a belief in his “heavy metal” football and high-tempo “gegen-pressing” game-plan, the charismatic Klopp has earned his place alongside Liverpool’s iconic former managers Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish.
When Dalglish led Liverpool to the title in 1990, the prize Shankly once described as the club’s “bread and butter” was almost taken for granted after two decades of dominance. Following years of underachievement, Klopp has brought his unique style and major trophies back to Liverpool.
They won the Champions League last season, when they beat Tottenham in the final, 12 months after losing to Real Madrid at the same stage of the competition. Liverpool were pipped to the title by Manchester City on the final day of last season, finishing with a record 97 points for top-flight runners-up.
But with Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino forming a formidable front three, Jordan Henderson a tireless presence in midfield and Virgil van Dijk imperious at the back, Liverpool have left City trailing in their wake this season. It was fitting that Liverpool saved one of their most eye-catching performances for the week the title was won.
After destroying Palace, Klopp said: “Imagine if the stadium could have been full and people could have experienced that live. It would have been amazing. “This game will last a while in my mind, this is what we want to be. We cannot play like other teams, but we can play pretty good stuff.”
Klopp’s frustration that matches are being played behind closed doors at present will fade in time. It will be the memories left by his transcendent team that linger longest. Historians on the Kop will surely rank this Liverpool side, also crowned Club World champions in December, alongside the 1979 and 1988 vintages as one of the greatest to wear the famous red shirt.
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