Chelsea’s Champions League hopes for next season received a boost following Sunday’s narrow victory over Liverpool.
Antonio Conte’s men edged Jurgen Klopp’s side 1-0 at Stamford Bridge to move to within two points of Tottenham in fourth. Chelsea’s win also took them to within three points of Sunday’s beaten opponents, who have one game remaining this season.
Olivier Giroud nodded Chelsea into 32rd minute lead and the Blues held on to keep their Champions League bid alive. Conte’s side welcome Huddersfield to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday while Tottenham host Newcastle.
Despite booking a place in the Champions League final in midweek, Klopp resisted the temptation to rest his key men ahead of the showdown against Real Madrid on May 26. With qualification for next season’s tournament via the Premier League still not confirmed, Liverpool started with Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane in attack.
And it took only two minutes for the Reds to threaten, Firmino forcing a good save from Thibaut Courtois. The Chelsea keeper had to beat away two Mane efforts inside the opening 30 minutes but shortly after his latest stop, Chelsea went ahead.
Victor Moses’ cross from the right found Giroud in the centre and a deft touch left Loris Karius with no chance. It was Giroud’s sixth goal in 11 matches against Liverpool and his 29th headed finish since his Premier League debut in 2012 — more than any other player in that time.
The goal raised the home side’s confidence, and Cesc Fabregas came close to adding another soon after with a fizzing drive across goal.
Salah, on his 50th appearance for Liverpool, endured a frustrating first half, with his only notable intervention a booking for diving on the edge of the penalty area. Liverpool’s talisman touched the ball just 12 times in the first 45 minutes, fewer than any other player, on a tough return to the club he left for Roma in 2016.
Salah scuffed an effort harmlessly into Courtois’ grasp after the break before Eden Hazard almost made it 2-0, Karius somehow managing to squirm the ball away for a corner. Antonio Rudiger put the ball in the net from the resulting set piece but he was correctly ruled offside.
Klopp removed Andy Robertson for striker Dominic Solanke with 16 minutes remaining and the ex-Blues striker was immediately involved, finding space in the area before the hosts eventually crowded him out. Chelsea responded with an attacking foray of their own, Marcos Alonso sending a stunning volley just wide of Karius’ goal.
With time ticking away, Chelsea grew nervous and almost threw away three points in the final six minutes. Jordan Henderson sent over a teasing cross and Cesar Azpilicueta almost put it past Courtois, but the Chelsea keeper managed to spare his blushes.
Solanke sent a header over in the final stages as the home side managed to claim an important three points.
Chelsea end the season with a trip to St James’ Park while Liverpool host Brighton and Tottenham face Leicester at Wembley.
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