Liverpool Ends Chelsea’s Bid for Top-Four Finish With 4-1 Win

Liverpool beat Chelsea 4-1 to rebound from its F.A. Cup final loss to the Blues and end their chances of a top-four finish in English soccer’s Premier League.

The home team led 3-0 after 28 minutes at Anfield last night after Michael Essien diverted a cross into his own net and Jordan Henderson and Daniel Agger scored three minutes apart. Ramires got Chelsea’s goal five minutes into the second half and Jonjo Shelvey made it 4-1 after 61 minutes.

The win lifted Liverpool ahead of Fulham into eighth place on goal difference with one match remaining. The Reds, who trail city rival Everton by a point and visit Swansea on the final day, last finished outside the top eight in 1954.

“It was an excellent performance,” Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish told his club’s website. “The fact that the supporters can get away from the last home game of the season with a little bit of a smile on their faces is great.”

Sixth-place Chelsea remains on 61 points, four fewer than Newcastle and five behind fourth-place Tottenham, which holds the final qualifying spot for Europe’s elite Champions League.

Chelsea will have to win the May 19 Champions League final against Bayern Munich to qualify for next season’s competition. If that happens, the fourth-place Premier League team will drop into the second-tier Europa League, with the top three clubs entering the Champions League group stage.

Interim manager Roberto Di Matteo last night made nine changes to the Chelsea team that started the 2-1 F.A. Cup final victory on May 5, signaling that his focus is on the matchup against Bayern. Chelsea last missed the Champions League in 2002-03.

Objective Appraisal

“We were depending on other results,” Di Matteo said. “We need to be objective. It wasn’t the points we lost today that made the difference.”

Essien deflected Luis Suarez’s cross into his own goal in the 19th minute to put Liverpool ahead. Henderson ran through to double the lead seven minutes later and Agger then headed in from a corner.

Stewart Downing missed a penalty for the home team in first-half stoppage time before Ramires made it 3-1. Shelvey sealed Liverpool’s biggest league win of the season when he struck a half-volley into an empty net from about 30 yards (27 meters) after collecting Chelsea goalkeeper Ross Turnbull’s clearance.

With all 20 teams having played 37 games, the final round of matches on May 13 will decide the champion, the remaining European places and the last relegation berth.

Blackburn Rovers joined Wolverhampton Wanderers in dropping down to the Championship two days ago after losing to Wigan.

So far, leader Manchester City and second-place Manchester United are guaranteed a Champions League berth next season. Liverpool is assured of a Europa League spot after winning the Carling Cup.

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