Liverpool may have beat Newcastle 2-1 to finish up their season, but the Reds had already let the Premier League title slip away. Sure enough, Manchester City’s win over Newcastle meant it was the Citizens throwing the championship party at close of business on Sunday.
But that’s not to say that Liverpool didn’t have a fantastic season. Consider this: last year Liverpool finished 7th, 14 points back of a Champions League position. Now they’re in second, are headed to Europe’s premier tournament and did it all while scoring 101 goals along the way.
It’s no wonder, then, that Steven Gerrard sounded rather optimistic when speaking after the match:
If someone had said to me that we would go into the last game with a slim chance of winning the league I’d have taken that at the start of the season. We have been unlucky – we gave it a great shot, but we fell a little bit short. But what do we do? We dust ourselves down and go again.
Liverpool know that they have some areas in which they need to improve – certainly the penultimate game, in which Palace came back, in the last fifteen minutes, from 3-0 down to draw 3-3, showed that was the case. Their defense away from home needs to be strengthened and lapses in concentration need to be reduced.
But that doesn’t stop the Liverpool captain from believing that, come next season, his side will be capable of proving themselves the best team in the league:
I believe the title is not too far away if we continue to produce performances like we have done this season. If we add to this team and the squad in the right areas we are capable of challenging. We are genuine title contenders before a ball is kicked next year, and we need to go and prove that we’re the top side in the league over 38 games, and not second.
Newcastle United’s horror start under Steve McClaren just got worse.
Magpies No. 1 goalkeeper Tim Krul is on duty with the Netherlands, and was forced from the Dutch’s 2-1 win at Kazakhstan in Euro qualifying action.
[ MORE: Ultimate guide to USMNT vs. Mexico ]
Krul left the game after landing awkwardly on his knee, and left the stadium on crutches.
Newcastle’s back-up keepers are Karl Darlow, new from Nottingham Forest, and veteran Rob Elliot.
The Magpies are in 20th place, without a win through eight Premier League matches.
McClaren’s crew just finished a brutal run of matches that saw Newcastle face Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United.
Italy took a 1-0 lead over Azerbaijan through the in-form Eder in the 11th minute, but the true leg-work (see what I did there) came from bite-sized midfielder Marco Verratti.
The PSG playmaker pinged a beautiful long ball over the top of the Azerbaijan defense that fell right at the feet of Eder, who let the ball settle itself and touched home confidently past Kamran Arhayev for a 1-0 lead.
The goal is the second of Eder’s national career in just five caps, having scored on debut against Bulgaria back in March. He has six goals in seven matches for Sampdoria so far this Serie A season.
Italy needs three points in this match to ensure qualification to Euro 2016. A win would guarantee them a place in the field, while anything less would mean there is work to do in the final match on Tuesday against Norway.
Later in the match, Stephan El Shaarawy gave Italy a 2-1 lead just before halftime, his second career international goal and his first since September of 2012 which came in his third career start.