It was a nervy opening 45-minutes at Anfielda as Liverpool struggled to break down a deep defending Middlesbrough FC side, but an arrow of a shot from Reds midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum — the big player for the big game — late in first half injury time broke the deadlock and set the hosts on their way to securing a top-four finish.
“I took a chance, to be fair, because normally goalkeepers think you’re going to go for the far post,” said the Dutchman, speaking to the club’s official website. “I thought I would try to shoot hard to the other side. I’m lucky that it went in, because it was a chance that I took,” added Wijnaldum. “Everything is going through your mind at that time. You’re just happy that you scored a goal and helped the team out and made the supporters happy. That’s the only thing you think of.”
Philippe Coutinho added another sublime free-kick to his highlight reel and Adam Lallana capped off proceedings with an assured finish before it was all said and done as Liverpool cemented their spot in next season’s Champions League. Entering the competition in the qualifying round means an early return to action for the Anfield outfit, but no one will be complaining one bit. After a season that was as topsy as it was turvy, it’s a well deserved reward for a team that’s coming in to their own.
“Obviously we are not confident enough in general, that’s how it is,” said Reds boss Jurgen Klopp, reflecting on their struggles this season. “Always when something doesn’t work it always feel like something slips through your fingers, so it’s like ‘Oh, again like this, again like this’ so I am really happy that we achieved a little bit of something we didn’t achieve in the past too often [a top-four finish],” mused the German, a smile playing across his face. “Not because I am vain and want to show we can do it, but because I am interested in the way and for development you need to feel the improvement, you need to feel the next step, that it’s right,” added Klopp. “That’s pretty much all and I’m really happy about the situation and to learn. I hope it has given us a little bit more confidence in general and we can work with this. That will be good.”