Roberto Firmino signs off his Liverpool career in style
Roberto Firmino signed off his Liverpool career in style, scoring in front of the Kop end during his last game at Anfield.
His 89th minute strike only resulted in a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa, leaving Liverpool’s Champions League aspirations hanging by a thread.
The Brazilian international received a heartfelt reception from the crowd as he entered the pitch as a substitute and in a fitting display found the back of the net for the 110th time in his 361st, and likely second-to-last appearance for the team.
Although unable to rally the team to secure a victory and maintain a realistic chance of a top-four finish, Firmino’s inability to do likely brought disappointment to a player who played a crucial role in Jurgen Klopp’s remarkable success.
The Reds had a delayed reaction to Jacob Ramsey’s first-half goal, leading to a frustrating afternoon and an end to their impressive nine-match winning streak.
Throughout this season, Liverpool has not held a top-four position even for a single day. With Manchester United’s victory over Bournemouth, Liverpool’s chances of securing a top-four finish have become highly unlikely.
The fixture was intended to be a farewell celebration for esteemed players like Firmino, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Naby Keita, but the atmosphere fell flat as the desired outcome could not be achieved.
The draw may have been frustrating for Liverpool, but it proved to be an important point for Villa, lifting them to seventh place and surpassing Tottenham in the standings. If they manage to secure a victory against Brighton in their final match next week, Unai Emery’s team will earn a European spot.
Jurgen Klopp, serving a one-match touchline ban, had to observe the match from the stands, which was perhaps for the best as Liverpool endured a vexing afternoon on multiple fronts.
Referee John Brooks, who was the fourth official in the incident where Klopp celebrated against Tottenham, leading to his suspension, made several decisions that upset the home fans, who felt that Villa engaged in time-wasting tactics.
Liverpool may argue that Brooks erred by not sending off Tyrone Mings for a high challenge on Cody Gakpo that tore the attacker’s shirt in the first. A decision that was upheld by VAR.
They could also express grievances regarding the referee’s interpretation of Ezri Konsa not intentionally playing the ball, which resulted in Virgil Van Dijk being ruled offside, disallowing what could have been Gakpo’s equalizer early in the second half.
In truth, Liverpool struggled to generate creative ideas in the attacking third. They frequently resorted to hopeful crosses that were easily collected by Emi Martinez, while Aston Villa’s well-organized defense denied them space around the penalty area.
Even Trent Alexander-Arnold, known for his accurate deliveries, seemed to be off-target as his usually reliable crosses failed to find their mark.
The visitors had something to cling onto in the 27th minute as Jacob Ramsey gave them the lead. The opportunity for an early advantage should have fallen to Ollie Watkins seven minutes earlier, when he capitalized on John McGinn’s flick over the top, leading to an ill-timed tackle from Ibrahima Konate.
However, Watkins disappointingly missed the penalty, sending it well wide of the goal.
Ramsey showcased his efficiency with a skillfully executed volley from Douglaz Luiz’s cross, which flew past Alisson.
Alisson then made a crucial save to deny Ramsey from another well-executed free-kick routine a few minutes later.
Villa, who effectively managed to frustrate both Liverpool and the majority of the Anfield crowd, appeared to have been fortunate to end the first half with all 11 players still on the pitch.
Referee John Brooks only cautioned Mings for his challenge on Gakpo, a decison upheld by VAR. Additionally, appeals for a penalty due to Luiz’s challenge on Jordan Henderson were also turned down by VAR.
Liverpool concluded the first period without registering a shot on target.
Gakpo thought he had equalized shortly after the restart. He pounced on a rebound from a shot by Konate, which was blocked on the goal line by Mings. The referee reversed the decision after VAR promted him to review the incident on the pitchside monitor.
VAR judged that Van Dijk was in an offside position due to Diaz’s header and referee Brooks determined than Konsa’s touch on the ball was a deflection rather than an intentional play.
Liverpool continued to press forward but failed to genuinely trouble Martinez, even with the substitutions of Firmino, Milner, Tsimikas, and Jota, who were all bidding farewell. The threat level remained unchanged.
In the 89th minute Firmino slid in to convert Salah’s low cross, bidding farewell in a stylish manner and setting up a frenetic ten minutes of added time, and just as had been the case for much of their season, Liverpool fell agonizingly short..