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    Liverpool 3-0 Middlesbrough Match Report

    Liverpool have qualified for the Champions League for the first time since 2014 after beating Middlesbrough on the final day of the season at Anfield.

    Jurgen Klopp's side were made to work hard in order to break the deadlock but ran out comfortable 3-0 winners courtesy of clinical strikes from Georginio Wijnaldum, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana.

    Needing to equal or better Arsenal's result against Everton at the Emirates Stadium, The Reds produced a nervy first-half display in which they struggled to break down a well-drilled Boro defence.

    The anxiety around Anfield increased further as news filtered through that Arsenal had taken a 1-0 lead over The Toffees after only eight minutes, which briefly squeezed Liverpool out of the top-four and into a Europa League spot.

    The Reds tried their best to respond but Emre Can's strike from 20 yards, which drifted narrowly wide, was one of only a few meaningful chances they created in the opening half-an-hour.

    Although Boro lacked the pace to trouble Liverpool on the counter-attack, they did manage to carve open the home side's defence once in the first-half when Patrick Bamford was played through on goal by Adam Forshaw's clever pass.

    The former Chelsea striker was bundled to the ground by Dejan Lovren but referee Martin Atkinson waved away the visitors' protestations, with the Croatian defender escaping both the conceding of a penalty and a potential red card.

    As news broke that 10-man Arsenal had doubled their lead at the Emirates Stadium, Liverpool were still unable to find the breakthrough with Daniel Sturridge's turn and strike narrowly evading Brad Guzan's right-hand post.

    Just as the prospect was beginning to grow that The Reds would drop points at home once again against one of the Premier League's lesser lights, they finally managed to cut open the Middlesbrough defence with their most coherent move of the half.

    Roberto Firmino's clever pass to Wijnaldum took three Middlesbrough defenders out of the game, enabling the Dutchman to power forward into the vacated space before producing a clinical finish from an acute angle.

    With the tension finally lifting around the stadium as the players headed into the break, the home side were finally able to release the shackles and they didn't have to wait long in the second-half before doubling their lead.

    After Sturridge had been fouled 30 yards from goal, it handed Philippe Coutinho the chance to curl a free-kick of stunning quality around the wall and into the bottom left-hand corner of the net to give his side a clear advantage.

    The Reds then effectively sealed the contest in the 55th-minute when they seized possession from a Boro corner to start a counter-attack, which ended when Lallana emphatically drilled the ball into the bottom right-hand corner.

    Steve Agnew's side showed occasional glimpses of the form they had displayed earlier in the season, with the lively Adam Forshaw shooting narrowly wide from close-range when he had a clear sight of goal.

    Liverpool were able to ease towards the finishing line with relative comfort in the closing stages and could even have extended their lead when Brad Guzan tipped a Coutinho effort from the edge of the penalty area wide of the post.

    Although Arsenal overcame Everton's man-advantage to win 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium, it was Liverpool who were celebrating as the respective final whistles were sounded as they edged The Gunners into fourth-place by a single point.

    The Reds, who now head to Sydney for an end-of-season game, must negotiate a potentially tricky qualifying round in August before taking their place in next season's Champions League for the first time since 2014.

    It is the first-time, meanwhile, that Arsenal have failed to finish in the top-four since the 1995-96 season, while their 75-point total in the league is the most a fifth-place side has earned since three points were first introduced for a win in 1981.
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    Item Reviewed: Liverpool 3-0 Middlesbrough Match Report Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Tufft
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