Liverpool finally got its hands on the English Premier League trophy following an action-packed 5-3 win against Chelsea at Anfield.
The Reds mathematically won the title last month, but lifted the trophy inside an empty stadium on Wednesday after a 31st victory of the season.
“Absolutely special” was how manager Jurgen Klopp described getting his hands on the coveted piece of silverware, 30 years since Liverpool was last crowned English champion.
“We don’t compare as we haven’t won it before … these boys are so special. I couldn’t be more proud of them throwing in a performance like this on the pitch in an open game, obviously, but nice, nice goals,” he told reporters.
“Incredible goals, super football in moments and I loved the game so we could enjoy so far and will enjoy the rest of the night.”
In Wednesday’s lively encounter, Liverpool raced into a 3-0 lead with goals from Naby Keita, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Georginio Wijnaldum before Olivier Giroud pulled one back for Chelsea on the stroke of half-time.
Roberto Firmino extended the host’s lead, but scores from Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic kept Chelsea in the contest, only for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to seal the win and kick-start Liverpool’s title celebrations.
Keita and Alexander-Arnold scored the pick of Wednesday’s goal, the former with a 25-yard strike to open the scoring before Alexander-Arnold doubled Liverpool’s lead with long-range free-kick that had goalkeeper Kepa rooted to the spot.
However, the challenge on Sadio Mane by Mateo Kovacic that led to the free-kick being awarded irked Chelsea boss Frank Lampard, who engaged in a heated exchange with Klopp on the touchline and later warned the opposition not to get carried away with celebrations.
“For me, it wasn’t a foul from Kovacic, and there were a lot of things that weren’t going our way,” Lampard told Sky Sports.
“But I’ve not got a problem with Jurgen Klopp. The way he’s managed this team has been fantastic. Fair play to Liverpool Football Club, they’ve won the league, but also don’t get too arrogant with it.
“That was my point, but it’s done. In match play, you can get emotional and that was it.”
Celebrations got underway as Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson lifted the trophy on a specially built podium on Anfield’s Kop after the match as ticker tape fell on the players and fireworks lit up the night sky. Indeed, fireworks were set off outside the stadium even as the match was being played.
“Of course, you’re going to have individuals that perform but the most important thing is the team,” Henderson told Sky Sports.
“We’re always there together for each other, it’s a really close group, as you can see, and that’s off the field and on the field.
“It makes a massive difference and it’s another thing the gaffer has brought since he’s come in – that togetherness in the dressing room. It has made a really big difference on the pitch.”
As the players celebrated on the pitch and in the locker room, Klopp admitted it was odd without fans in the stadium.
“It’s strange, you stand on a stage and there is nobody – not nobody, but not as many as you would imagine in a situation like that,” he said.
“But I have to say, the people who organized it made the best of it … I was never on the Kop before, it was pretty special and I think it makes sense in the moment when the people are not in that we use the Kop to celebrate it with them together in our hearts.”
Merseyside Police say that around 3,000 fans congregated outside Anfield and nine arrests were made for affray, assault, people who were drunk and disorderly and drug driving.
During the trophy presentation, some fans lit flairs and scaled the stadium’s gates despite warnings from the club and officials to stay at home given the coronavirus outbreak.
A 48-hour dispersal zone had been made around the stadium in anticipation of Wednesday’s game after similar events occurred last month when Liverpool’s status as champion was confirmed.
“Although the numbers who gathered last night could have been significantly higher, it is still disappointing that people did not listen to requests from ourselves, Liverpool Football Club and Liverpool City Council not to gather in large numbers because of the risks still posed by Covid-19,” said Natalie Perischine, assistant chief constable from Merseyside Police.
“We are all still in unprecedented times due to the pandemic and the last thing anyone wants is a resurgence of cases in Merseyside with every life lost a tragedy, so I want to take this opportunity to again urge people to act sensibly, follow government guidance and keep themselves and each other safe.”