Liverpool did all they could on the final day of the Premier League season, but a 2-0 victory over Wolves on Sunday was not enough to lift the title at the end of it.
The Reds came into the match one point behind Manchester City who travelled to Brighton, meaning that any slip up from the Mancunians would put Liverpool in the driver’s seat.
Sadio Mane settled any early nerves at Anfield and it was via another Trent Alexander-Arnold assist as the Senegalese prodded home is full-back’s low cross from point blank range.
The stands around Anfield went berserk due to an apparent Brighton goal against City which turned out to be a false alarm, but almost immediately after they were celebrating for good as Glenn Murray nodded the Seagulls in front.
The dramatic change in atmosphere seemed to rattle Liverpool who became sloppy and restless in possession, and before the half was up Matt Doherty struck the crossbar for Wolves and City hit the front with goals to Sergio Aguero and Aymeric Laporte.
As the Citizens took an unassailable lead and cruised to the title, Alexander-Arnold and Mane linked up again to confirm Liverpool’s three points with a deep cross in from the Englishman finding his No.10’s head from where it nestled in the goal.
News filtered around Anfield of City’s impending coronation which prompted a very lacklustre ending to this game and to an incredible season for both Liverpool and Wolves.
So close, yet so far
Twenty-one minutes. For a quarter of a football match, Liverpool were going to win the Premier League, but unfortunately for them, all Murray’s goal served to do was kick City into gear on route to their second consecutive crown.
Amassing 97 points, there are only two Premier League seasons that Liverpool would not have won with that points total. This season happened to be one of them due to this incredible City team that they have competed against.
It has been an incredible season on the red half of Merseyside, and so many players have had world class seasons. Four members of the PFA Team of the Year, the PFA Player of the Year, two of three joint Golden Boot winners and the Golden Glove winner, all wearing Liverpool red.
Near misses and heartbreaking losses are all too familiar to the Kop faithful and they have lost this title in the incredibly unlucky fashion that only Liverpool can.
In 2008-09, Liverpool became the first and only team to lose only twice and not win the league. Now they are the only team to lose once and not lift the trophy.
In fact, only one team had ever lost once before, being Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea team of 2004-05, whose points tally of 95 has been surpassed by only three teams; all of which have been in the last 12 months.
In the Premier League era, only three times has the team on top at Christmas not gone on to claim the crown in May. 2008-09, 2013-14, 2018-19. Liverpool, Liverpool, Liverpool.
This will burn inside for the Liverpool players and for Jurgen Klopp, who will doubtless ensure his side is well up for another fight next season and this time, have their hands on the cup.
Wolves the next big thing
Coming up after a dominant Championship-winning season, Wolves have gone from strength to strength back in the top flight and their future is looking incredibly bright.
With Nuno Espirito Santo at the helm and their strong and somewhat bizarre Portuguese connections seeing them boast talent such as Ruben Neves, Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho, Wolves certainly look the most likely to be the next team to penetrate the top six.
Perhaps a bold statement to make this early in their development, but there are parallels between this current Wolves side and the Manchester City side of 2010 that have gone on to become a powerhouse over the subsequent decade.
City were a mid-table club, received the financial backing from new ownership and little by little went from Robinho, to Carlos Tevez to Sergio Aguero, who now alongside the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva is part of a super team.
Raul Jimenez has chipped in with 13 goals in his debut Premier League season and formed a terrifying partnership with Diogo Jota, Doherty has been a standout performer and with Moutinho and Neves pulling the strings, the possibilities are endless for this team.
Money will continue coming in and with the possibility of European football next year, the club will be able to lure a higher calibre of players and aspirations of Champions League football in the near future are by no means unrealistic.
With Manchester United in turmoil, Arsenal rebuilding, Tottenham Hotspur staggering domestically and Chelsea set for a transfer ban, the next few seasons present a big opportunity for Espirito Santo and for the club.
Looking ahead to Madrid
The silver lining of it for Liverpool is that they have a wonderful opportunity to break their seven-year trophy drought and bring a sixth European Club back to Anfield in Madrid at the beginning of June.
The disappointment of their second placed finish will linger for the next couple of days, but the players must ensure that is all it goes on for as they prepare to right the wrongs of Kyiv last season.
If ever there was a football team that deserved a trophy, it is this Liverpool side. With the season they have had and the development they have made, silverware would be a just reward.
Three seasons ago they were eighth, last season they were 25 points off the pace. This season they have closed that gap to one and are a top three side in world football. The only thing that is missing is a winner’s medal around the players’ necks.
Two and a half weeks of recuperation and training awaits these players for another shot at the very top, and this is time it is a shot they ought to take.