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Jurgen Klopp satisfied with Liverpool's finish after early season struggles

LONDON – While Liverpool had to settle for a 1-1 Premier League draw with Aston Villa on Saturday that all but doused their hopes for a Champions League berth, manager Jurgen Klopp said considering where his squad were a few weeks ago, he was satisfied with the result.

“It’s a draw and that’s okay, that’s okay,” he said.

The Reds looked for much of the season to be destined for the Europa League rather than the Champions League anyway, he added. But his team arrived at Anfield on Saturday having won seven in a row for a late charge at the top four.

“We were too long not good enough ourselves,” said Klopp, whose team are on 66 points and have one game left, an away match against Southampton.

Should third-placed Newcastle and fourth-placed Manchester United, who both have 69 points, clinch just one more point in their final two games, Liverpool’s hopes of finishing in the top four will be gone.

“And I think we made it pretty exciting. I didn’t think that was possible seven weeks ago. The boys did really well in that period. I think people enjoyed it as well, you could see today they are not angry with us.

“They are looking forward to a new Premier League season and the European league season. So do I.”

Jacob Ramsey gave Villa the lead in the first half and they were able to keep the hosts at bay for most of the match.

However, the Anfield crowd exploded when Brazilian Roberto Firmino came off the bench to score a dramatic equaliser in the 89th minute in his final home appearance for Liverpool after eight trophy-laden seasons.

Klopp had to watch the afternoon’s drama unfold from the stands while serving the first of a two-game suspension for criticising the officials.

Firmino, Naby Keita, James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are all leaving the club when their contracts expire in the summer, making for an emotional afternoon, said Klopp, adding that he will miss their contributions on and off the field.

“I know (Firmino’s) kids, I’ve known them all since they were babies,” he said. “Same for (Milner). The two boys who came on showed immediately what we will miss.

“It’s Millie’s mentality... he played really good football here and today again, whoever will do that for us in the next few years, that is a high, high bar, because how many games he won for us in this way is insane.

“This day was not easy for us. No excuses for anything, but because we all love these four boys, it’s hard to prepare a little bit. But at the same time, there is a super important game, and for this part of the day, the first half was not great.” REUTERS