Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said salvaging Champions League qualification from a chaotic season was the “best feeling I could have dreamed of” after victory over Crystal Palace clinched third place.
The Reds’ Premier League title disintegrated after Christmas and they fell timidly to Real Madrid in the Champions League but rallied to win their final five Premier League games to claim a prize that looked unlikely until the penultimate weekend of the season.
Liverpool were initially nervous but got the result they needed against Palace – who had Roy Hodgson taking charge for the final time – thanks to two goals from Sadio Mane in front of almost 10,000 home fans at Anfield.
“Outstanding. We wanted this feeling, this game, this atmosphere. Finishing the season in third is incredible,” Klopp told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“Credit to the boys – I can’t believe how it worked out in the last few weeks, incredible.”
A top-four spot looked beyond Liverpool when they sat eighth in early March after a campaign undermined by injuries and a catastrophic run of home form including six successive Anfield league defeats.
Even at the end of April they remained four points off fourth place with just five games to go but won each of those to not only seal a place at Europe’s top table again but also leapfrog Chelsea into third.
“It’s big. If someone told me five, six, eight weeks ago we can finish the season in third – it was out of reach, barely possible,” added Klopp.
“Fighting through this and finishing here in third is the best lesson you could learn in life. From nowhere to the Champions League in five weeks is a massive achievement.”
Mane poked home from a corner nine minutes before half-time to ease Liverpool’s early anxieties and the Senegal forward wrapped up victory with a deflected shot in the 74th minute.
Andros Townsend gave Liverpool an early scare when he raced clear only to shoot off target but the home side took control from there and eased to victory with few further alarms.
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