Liverpool have won the 2019-20 Premier League title after Manchester City lost to Chelsea in an enthralling game at Stamford Bridge on Thursday.
It has taken thirty years and a three-month coronavirus-enforced break but the outcome of this season’s title race has never been in doubt and finally, the inevitable is confirmed and Liverpool’s long wait for a 19th title is finally over.
City travelled to London in the knowledge that anything short of a win would see them cede the mantle of champions to the Reds who had beaten Crystal Palace on Wednesday.
But the Citizens were undone by an enterprising Chelsea who harried the visitors into making several costly individual mistakes that saw them literally hand the title to Liverpool.
Christian Pulisic put the Blues in the lead in the first half with a breakaway goal but Kevin De Bruyne’s excellent second-half freekick drew the teams level before Willian secured three points for the Blues and handed Liverpool a first topflight title since 1989-90 from the spot 12 minutes from time after VAR spotted a Fernandinho handball on the line.
Pulisic had an effort cleared off the line and Mason Mount went close for the Blues while Raheem Sterling hit the post when clean through in an incident-filled encounter.
The win ensures that Chelsea extend their lead over fifth-placed Manchester United to six points and ensured that Liverpool’s 23-point lead cannot now be overcome with only seven games of the season left.
City had hoped to hold on to their crown for a while longer not least to avoid a scenario where they’ll have to hold a guard of honour for Liverpool who visit the Etihad in their next game on 2 July.
The Citizens started in trademark fashion hogging possession with crisp passes, but the Blues looked dangerous when they broke, exposing City’s soft underbelly and provoking the defensive lapses that have seen City lose more games this season than in their last two championship-winning seasons combined.
Chelsea’s opener when it came was a terrible gift with Benjamin Mendy cast in the role of a comedic Father Christmas.
Mendy received the ball near the halfway line after Chelsea had cleared a City free-kick. He had Ilkay Gundogan nearby but inexplicably gifted Pulisic possession, then worsened matters by committing too early and allowing the American to race clear and slot home.
De Bruyne’s brilliant free-kick into the top corner brought City level shortly after the break and they almost went in front moments later when Raheem Sterling hit the post after a stunning counter-attack.
Chelsea also went close when Fernandinho’s error allowed Pulisic round Ederson, only to be denied by a brilliant goal-line clearance by Kyle Walker.
City were jittery at the back and while they escaped unscathed that time, they were not so lucky the next time Chelsea came forward.
Ederson saved from substitute Tammy Abraham and then Fernandinho pulled a double save from Pulisic’s follow-up and Abraham’s attempt but while his first block was legal, the second wasn’t and although referee Stuart Attwell missed his handball, the video assistant referee did not.
The Brazilian was sent off and Chelsea were awarded a penalty which was smoothly dispatched into the net to confirm victory for the Blues – and end thirty years of hurt for Liverpool.
The Blues are now only a point away from third-placed Leicester City and may yet surpass the Foxes who are yet to win a single game since the restart.
Chelsea have made a habit of acting like kingmakers in recent Premier League history and Liverpool fans will remember that it was a Jose Mourinho-coached Chelsea that inflicted a defeat on Liverpool at Anfield that heralded the disintegration of the Reds’ title challenge in 2014.
The Blues were also instrumental in Leicester’s fairytale title win in 2015 defeating then second-placed Tottenham at Stamford Bridge to confirm an unlikely championship for the Foxes.
For City, they still have a chance to make a success of the season as they are still in the Champions League and continue their defence of the FA Cup at Newcastle on Sunday. They already have a trophy this season having won the Carabao Cup earlier.
Meanwhile, with the title done and dusted for Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp can now focus on another target – breaking City’s record of 100 points which they achieved last season.
The Reds can also set the record for the most wins in a season (the record is 32), most home wins (18), most away wins (16) and biggest winning margin (19 points).
The Reds are currently on 86 points and need five wins from the remaining seven games to cement themselves as one of the greatest title-winning sides in Premier League history.