Firmino scores late to keep Liverpool's dwindling Champions League chances alive.

Firmino scores late to keep Liverpool’s dwindling Champions League chances alive.

LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) – Roberto Firmino struck a dramatic late equalise in his farewell outing for Liverpool, keeping the Merseyside club’s modest Premier League top-four hopes alive with a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa on Saturday.

Firmino, one of four players whose contracts expire at the end of the season, scored in the 89th minute, much to the joy of the fans, who serenaded the sobbing Brazilian after the game.

“Definitely (emotional),” admitted manager Juergen Klopp of Firmino’s farewell. “This was a difficult day for us.”We had to cool down in the second half, raise the pressure but still settle down, and that’s exactly what we did. It was a tie, and that’s OK.”

Klopp’s team is fifth in the table with 66 points, although they are three points behind fourth-place Manchester United, who have a game in hand. Villa are sixth in the table with 58 points after 37 games under Unai Emery.

After a continuous period of pressure, Jacob Ramsey put Villa ahead in the 27th minute, racing to the back post to head a cross from Douglas Luiz past goalkeeper Allison.

“But we had a 1-0 lead for so long and had chances to win the game.” But a point at Anfield is fantastic,” Ramsey told the BBC.

“When you come to places like this, we were definitely under (pressure) for the first 15 and last 20 minutes.” But if you want to come to these areas and obtain results, you have to dig deep, which we did.”

Villa might have grabbed the lead five minutes earlier after being given a penalty, but Ollie Watkins’ effort went wide.

Liverpool thought they had equalised early in the second half when Cody Gakpo scored from close range, but it was ruled out for offside following a long VAR review.

The home team controlled the closing few minutes as cheers in favour of Firmino echoed out across the stadium.

Liverpool’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League next season look to be lost. Newcastle United and Manchester United need just a point from their last two games to deny Liverpool a spot in Europe’s top club tournament.

Since 2016-17, the six-time champions have not missed the European showcase competition.

Klopp had to sit out the game while serving the first of a two-game touchline punishment for insulting the referee during Liverpool’s 4-3 victory over Tottenham last month. In addition, the management was fined 75,000 pounds ($94,660).

Firmino, Naby Keita, James Milner, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are all departing Anfield when their contracts expire at the end of the season. They were all part of the group that won the Champions League in 2019 and helped the club win their first English league championship in 30 years in the 2019-20 season. In a post-game ceremony, the group was honoured with an honour guard and framed images.

Darwin Nunez was out for Liverpool with a toe injury, while Philippe Coutinho was out for Aston Villa.

Tyrone Mings delivered a powerful kick to the chest of Gakpo during the game. Gakpo lifted his shirt to show the referee the mark, but Mings was issued a yellow card following a VAR review.

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