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Liverpool end season with record-breaking win

The Reds finished on a best ever tally of 99 points, while Man City comfortably overcame Norwich.

Virgil van Dijk celebrates.
Virgil van Dijk celebrates.
Image: Laurence Griffiths

SADIO MANE came off the bench to cement a comeback victory at Newcastle as champions Liverpool set a new club record of 99 Premier League points for the season.

Trailing to Dwight Gayle’s opportunist strike after just 24 seconds, Jurgen Klopp’s men levelled through Virgil Van Dijk before the break and then won it 3-1 courtesy of Divock Origi’s 59th-minute missile and Mane’s fine curling effort at the death to claim a 32nd league victory of the campaign.

The depleted Magpies worked hard throughout, but found themselves increasingly stretched as Klopp belatedly turned to his big guns with time running down.

If even a much-changed Liverpool side arrived expecting, like many disgruntled Newcastle fans, a straightforward afternoon on Tyneside, they were soon disabused of the notion.

The Magpies were awarded a free-kick on halfway and the quick-thinking Jonjo Shelvey chipped the ball into the path of the equally alert Gayle, who stabbed if deftly passed the advancing Alisson Becker to open the scoring, although only after a lengthy VAR check for offside.

Klopp’s men quickly settled into the game after the early setback to dominate possession, although without ever looking like breaking through the massed ranks of black and white shirts ahead of them.

Newcastle’s injury-hit three-man rearguard, which included full-backs Javier Manquillo and Danny Rose playing alongside Steve Bruce’s only fit central defender, Federico Fernandez, was well protected in the face of near constant pressure with former Magpie James Milner and Takumi Minamino prominent for the Reds.

However, only keeper Martin Dubravka’s fingertips prevented Minamino from levelling with a long-range 29th-minute piledriver.

The respite proved to be temporary as Liverpool finally levelled with seven minutes of the half remaining.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain worked his way into the space between wing-back Matt Ritchie and Rose down the right before lofting a cross into the middle for Van Dijk to rise and loop a header over the helpless Dubravka.

Oxlade-Chamberlain and Minamino both chances their arm from distance as half-time approached, but the sides were still locked together when the whistle sounded.

Reds full-back Neco Williams fired high and wide and Van Dijk headed a Milner corner straight at the keeper as the champions returned in determined fashion, but Sean Longstaff sent a raking effort just wide at the other end after linking well with fellow substitute Joelinton and Shelvey.

The visitors went ahead with 59 minutes gone when Origi shifted the ball on to his right foot on the left side of the penalty area before smashing a swerving shot past Dubravka and inside the far post.

Origi, Minamino and Oxlade-Chamberlain swiftly made way for Mohamed Salah, Mane and Roberto Firmino, and Salah almost announced his arrival in style when he rattled the post with a powerfully-struck attempt before Mane sealed the win with a fine 89th-minute finish.

Meanwhile, Manchester City took their goal tally past 100 as they wrapped up their Premier League campaign with a thumping 5-0 win over relegated Norwich.

Kevin De Bruyne struck twice and equalled the competition’s single-season assist record by setting up Raheem Sterling in a one-sided contest at the Etihad Stadium.

Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez also got on the scoresheet in a game that saw veteran playmaker David Silva make his final Premier League appearance for the club.

To round off a good day for Pep Guardiola’s City, Ederson registered a 16th clean sheet of the campaign to win the Golden Glove.

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The game lacked only a goal for a Silva – and a crowd to enjoy it – but there will be opportunities in the Champions League next month.

Bottom side Norwich, who beat City earlier in the season, offered little despite a bright opening, their dismal run-in coming to a sorry end.

They initially looked keen to to sign off with a flourish and thought their positivity had brought a goal after eight minutes as Onel Hernandez found the net.

The Cuban broke away from the defence and cut inside to send a low shot inside Ederson’s right-hand post but VAR intervened to deny him for offside.

City took immediate advantage of that reprieve as Sterling led a charge at the other end. The England forward looked to play in Silva but it was Jesus who poked home from close range in the ensuing scramble.

City pressed for more and De Bruyne had a shot blocked before Tim Krul saved from Kyle Walker and Ben Godfrey got in the way of Jesus’ rebound attempt.

The Canaries spurned a glorious chance to equalise after City lost possession in midfield and Teemu Pukki was sent racing clear on goal. Ederson came out to smother his shot and Todd Cantwell put the follow-up over.

Phil Foden then forced a good save from Krul and Silva went close to a farewell goal as he dragged a shot wide.

It came to De Bruyne to double the lead on the stroke of half-time, the Belgian showing great footwork outside the box before curling an inch-perfect shot into the top corner.

The hosts stayed on the attack into the second half with substitute Ilkay Gundogan firing narrowly wide moments after coming on.

Silva continued to hunt his goal and found time and space in the area to turn and shoot but Krul produced a fine one-handed save.

Another chance came just after the just after the hour as De Bruyne – chasing the assists record – broke into the area and slid across towards Sterling but Zimmermann forced it onto the post.

Mahrez then volleyed over before Jesus tested Krul from the edge of the area.

Sterling finally claimed the third 10 minutes from time, taking City’s league goal tally for the season to 100, when he ran on to a delicate through-ball from De Bruyne and slipped it past Krul.

The goal also earned De Bruyne a record-equalling 20th assist of the season.

There was still more to come from City and Mahrez took advantage of poor defending to slot home a fourth. De Bruyne wrapped up the scoring by slamming in a shot off the post in the dying moments.

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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