There was no need for a goalscoring goalkeeper this time.
Liverpool’s latest win in the Premier League — 3-0 at Burnley on Wednesday — was far more routine than the one secured by goalkeeper Alisson’s sensational stoppage-time header at the weekend.
It was no less vital, though.
Liverpool will head into Sunday’s final round back in the top four, if only on goal difference, as last season’s runaway champions look to clinch qualification for the Champions League — a possibility that looked so unlikely a month ago.
With two qualifying spots up for grabs to join Manchester City and Manchester United, Chelsea is in third place on 67 points, one more than both Liverpool and fifth-place Leicester.
Liverpool has a superior goal difference to Leicester of four, so any kind of victory over Crystal Palace should be enough for Jurgen Klopp’s team to finish in the top four. Leicester closes the season at home to Tottenham and will need to pile up the goals if Chelsea and Liverpool win.
Chelsea is away to Aston Villa.
Since a 1-1 home draw with Newcastle on April 24 that left Klopp fearing the worst, Liverpool has won four straight games — against Southampton, Manchester United, West Bromwich Albion and now Burnley — to reel in Leicester.
Three days after Alisson’s winner at West Brom, it was another Brazil international — Roberto Firmino — who put Liverpool ahead at Turf Moor by converting a cross from Andrew Robertson in the 43rd minute.
Nat Phillips, the reserve center back filling in so admirably amid a glut of injuries in that position, scored the second goal with a header from Sadio Mane’s cross in the 52nd. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain added a third in the 88th.
The other thing to be decided on the final day of the season will be which teams qualify for UEFA’s minor European competitions, the Europa League and the newly created Europa Conference League.
West Ham is in a good position to finish sixth and qualify for the Europa League after beating West Brom 3-1.
Seventh-place Tottenham lost 2-1 to Aston Villa, in what could be Harry Kane’s final home game for the club, and is now tied on points with Everton, which beat Wolverhampton 1-0 at home thanks to Richarlison’s header.
Arsenal is a point further back in ninth after a 3-1 win at Crystal Palace.
Newcastle won 1-0 at home to Sheffield United in Wednesday’s other game.
Kane looked emotional after the final whistle of the Villa game as he walked around the field away from his teammates at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, applauding the fans who had stayed behind.
The England captain has reportedly asked to be sold after becoming unhappy with the lack of progress at the club. The manner of the defeat to Villa highlighted that, with the team jeered by supporters who were back in the stadium in small numbers after an easing of pandemic restrictions.
Villa recovered from conceding an eighth-minute goal by Steven Bergwijn to score twice before halftime, with Tottenham left back Sergio Reguilon slicing in a comical own-goal and then twice failing to clear to allow Ollie Watkins to run through and finish.
There was worse to come Wednesday for Tottenham, with Arsenal winning at Palace an hour later to close within a point of its north London rival. Tottenham visits Leicester and Arsenal hosts Brighton on the final day.
Gabriel Martinelli and Nicolas Pepe, with his second of the match, scored in second-half stoppage time to secure the win for Arsenal. Christian Benteke netted for Palace for the fourth straight game.
CLOSE TO EUROPE
West Ham only needs a point at home to Southampton to secure sixth place and a spot in the Europa League. That would mark the team’s highest position in the league since 1999.
West Ham came from behind thanks to goals by Tomas Soucek, Angelo Ogbonna and Michail Antonio.
West Brom manager Sam Allardyce said he would be leaving at the end of the season, having failed to keep the club in the Premier League after joining in December.