Aston Villa 1-0 Liverpool
Aston Villa 1 - 0 Liverpool
Liverpool failed to end their revival with a spot in the Europa League as they finished sixth in the Premier League after defeat at Aston Villa.
England winger Stewart Downing grabbed the only goal when he fired in after a cross from Marc Albrighton.
Reds midfielder Raul Meireles almost equalised but keeper Brad Friedel impressively clawed away his shot.
In a game which failed to sparkle, Villa finished the stronger and James Collins almost added a second.
The victory moved the Midlands club up to a respectable ninth-place finish and despite under-achieving for much of the season, they ended it with just one defeat in their last eight games to provide some encouragement for the future.
The same can also be said for Liverpool, even though they have lost their final two games of the campaign, and they are expected to embark on a summer of major strengthening via the transfer market.
Ahead of the game, the Merseysiders knew a Europa League place would be theirs if they could better Tottenham's result against Birmingham at White Hart Lane and claim fifth place.
As events transpired, they failed to qualify for Europe for the first time since 1999 but there might not be too much angst felt at Anfield about not playing in a competition with a reputation among some clubs for being more of a hindrance than an honour.
Joe Cole was given his first start for Liverpool since 17 March as Reds boss Kenny Dalglish chose to leave out Andy Carroll, Maxi and Glen Johnson.
Carroll's absence was the most notable with the striker emerging as a doubt to play for England at the European Under-21 Championship in Denmark this summer because of injury concerns.
Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard, who has been injured since the start of March, opted to watch the final game of the season from among the Reds fans at Villa Park - but there was little for him to get excited about with more injuries than goal attempts in the first half.
Liverpool midfielder Jay Spearing was first to depart as he felt the effects of a Nigel Reo-Coker challenge after 12 minutes, with Jonjo Shelvey coming on as his replacement.
Centre-back Jamie Carragher had to go off briefly to have running repairs to a head wound before Villa lost midfielder Fabian Delph, who was replaced by Albrighton.
Liverpool went close when Lucas Leiva's effort was cleared off the line by Ashley Young, but Villa responded by opening the scoring themselves as Albrighton provided a cross to the far post where Downing controlled on his chest before firing an angled shot high into the Reds net.
Villa had conceded 59 goals in previous games this season and that record provided a Liverpool side, who improved after the break, with hope of getting back into the game.
The visitors thought they were set to do so when the tricky Luis Suarez outwitted Villa right-back Kyle Walker and squared the ball for Meireles.
The Portuguese international midfielder had the Villa net at his mercy but 40-year-old Friedel, making his 400th Premier League appearance, scampered across to claw away the shot.
Thereafter, the home defence stood firm and it was Villa who looked the more likely to score.
Young's free-kick was guided narrowly wide by Collins before Gabriel Agbonlahor agonisingly failed to get an outstretched leg to a Darren Bent cross.
Ashley Young has been linked to a move away from Villa and when he went off to a ovation as he clapped the fans on his way off after 89 minutes will do little to deter speculation about his future.
And, despite a frustrating season, Villa's fans were celebrating after the final whistle, giving off a huge roar when the relegation of local rivals Birmingham, who lost at Spurs, was confirmed.
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The final whistle goes and the game is over.90:00 +3:13
David Ngog is caught offside. Free kick taken by James Collins.90:00 +1:42
The ball is sent over by Marc Albrighton.90:00 +1:37
The ball is sent over by Stewart Downing.89:54
Free kick awarded for a foul by Gabriel Agbonlahor on John Flanagan. Jose Reina restarts play with the free kick.88:29 Substitution
Substitution Michael Bradley on for Ashley Young.87:30
Luis Suarez takes a shot. Save by Brad Friedel.86:31
Unfair challenge on Raul Meireles by Ashley Young results in a free kick. Jose Reina takes the free kick.86:10
Short corner taken by Ashley Young.85:53
Ashley Young takes a shot. Martin Skrtel gets a block in.85:27
Inswinging corner taken by Ashley Young.85:17
The ball is crossed by Gabriel Agbonlahor, Jamie Carragher manages to make a clearance.83:25
Luis Suarez takes a shot. Blocked by Luke Young.83:00
Unfair challenge on Dirk Kuyt by Kyle Walker results in a free kick. Fabio Aurelio restarts play with the free kick.82:25
Stiliyan Petrov takes a shot. Save made by Jose Reina.78:49
Darren Bent concedes a free kick for a foul on Jamie Carragher. Direct free kick taken by Jose Reina.77:05
Marc Albrighton sends in a cross, save made by Jose Reina.76:22
Shot by Darren Bent from deep inside the penalty area misses wide to the left of the target.74:55
Raul Meireles crosses the ball, Effort on goal by Luis Suarez from just inside the area clears the bar.73:41
David Ngog gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Richard Dunne. Richard Dunne takes the direct free kick.
Effort on goal by Darren Bent from 20 yards. Save by Jose Reina.72:14
Centre by Luis Suarez, James Collins makes a clearance.72:09
Luis Suarez produces a cross, James Collins manages to make a clearance.69:49
James Collins gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Jonjo Shelvey. Fabio Aurelio shoots direct from the free kick.69:36
Martin Skrtel delivers the ball, Kyle Walker makes a clearance.69:09
Outswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Raul Meireles, clearance made by Richard Dunne.68:43
Fabio Aurelio takes a outswinging corner to the near post, clearance made by Richard Dunne.68:23
Corner from the right by-line taken by Raul Meireles, clearance by Richard Dunne.67:36 Substitution
Substitution Nigel Reo-Coker goes off and Gabriel Agbonlahor comes on.67:12 Substitution
Substitution David Ngog comes on in place of Joe Cole.65:53
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Martin Skrtel by Kyle Walker. Free kick taken by Jose Reina.63:55
James Collins has an effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the right of the target.63:29
Ashley Young restarts play with the free kick.63:29 Booking
Booking Joe Cole receives a caution.63:04
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Kyle Walker by Joe Cole.62:18
The offside flag is raised against Luis Suarez. Richard Dunne takes the indirect free kick.61:31
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Kyle Walker by Luis Suarez. Free kick taken by Brad Friedel.61:01
Raul Meireles takes a shot. Save made by Brad Friedel.57:36
Darren Bent is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Martin Skrtel restarts play with the free kick.57:08
Centre by Stewart Downing, clearance made by Jamie Carragher.56:05
Raul Meireles restarts play with the free kick.56:05 Booking
Booking Booking for Kyle Walker for unsporting behaviour.55:42
Kyle Walker concedes a free kick for a foul on Luis Suarez.55:26
Ashley Young sends in a cross, clearance by Raul Meireles.54:54
Centre by Stewart Downing, Jamie Carragher makes a clearance.54:39
Raul Meireles gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Stewart Downing. Ashley Young takes the free kick.53:57
Effort on goal by Joe Cole from just inside the area clears the bar.53:25
Darren Bent sends in a cross, Raul Meireles manages to make a clearance.51:15
Effort from the edge of the box by Luis Suarez goes wide of the right-hand upright.50:12
The ball is delivered by Luis Suarez.49:13
Outswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Ashley Young.49:02
Ashley Young takes a shot. Blocked by Martin Skrtel.48:09
Free kick awarded for a foul by Fabio Aurelio on Marc Albrighton. James Collins takes the direct free kick.46:51
The ball is delivered by Raul Meireles, clearance by Richard Dunne.45:01
The second half begins.45:00 +3:19 Half time
Half Time The ref blows to signal half-time.45:00 +2:54
Leiva Lucas challenges Stiliyan Petrov unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by James Collins.45:00 +0:24
The assistant referee signals for offside against Luis Suarez. Free kick taken by Richard Dunne.41:22
Nigel Reo-Coker fouled by Dirk Kuyt, the ref awards a free kick. James Collins restarts play with the free kick.40:09
Richard Dunne restarts play with the free kick.40:09 Booking
Booking Raul Meireles receives a caution.39:56
Free kick awarded for a foul by Raul Meireles on Stiliyan Petrov.39:43
Foul by Nigel Reo-Coker on Leiva Lucas, free kick awarded. Leiva Lucas takes the free kick.38:06
Luke Young gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Dirk Kuyt. Free kick taken by Fabio Aurelio.32:12
Assist by Marc Albrighton.32:12 Goal scored
Goal! - Stewart Downing - A Villa 1 - 0 Liverpool Stewart Downing fires in a goal from close in to the top left corner of the goal. Aston Villa 1-0 Liverpool.32:07
Centre by Kyle Walker,28:40
Unfair challenge on Kyle Walker by Fabio Aurelio results in a free kick. Brad Friedel restarts play with the free kick.27:19
Jose Reina restarts play with the free kick.27:19 Substitution
Substitution Fabian Delph leaves the field to be replaced by Marc Albrighton.27:19
The assistant referee flags for offside against Darren Bent.27:11
Kyle Walker sends in a cross, clearance made by Martin Skrtel.23:11
Jonjo Shelvey challenges Fabian Delph unfairly and gives away a free kick. Stewart Downing takes the free kick.21:01
Stiliyan Petrov takes a shot. Jamie Carragher gets a block in.20:38
James Collins takes a shot. Blocked by Jamie Carragher.20:36
Stewart Downing takes a outswinging corner.20:14
The ball is sent over by Kyle Walker, Martin Skrtel gets a block in.19:19
Stiliyan Petrov produces a drilled left-footed shot from 18 yards. Jose Reina makes a save.16:04
Jonjo Shelvey takes a shot from 35 yards and went wide right of the target.15:48
Raul Meireles takes the inswinging corner, clearance by James Collins.15:21
The ball is swung over by Luis Suarez, clearance by Kyle Walker.14:33
Unfair challenge on Darren Bent by Leiva Lucas results in a free kick. Kyle Walker restarts play with the free kick.13:46
Inswinging corner taken by Raul Meireles, Richard Dunne manages to make a clearance.13:10
Raul Meireles takes a shot. Richard Dunne gets a block in.12:51
Foul by Dirk Kuyt on Richard Dunne, free kick awarded. James Collins takes the free kick.11:14 Substitution
Substitution (Liverpool) makes a substitution, with Jonjo Shelvey coming on for Jay Spearing.8:58
Dirk Kuyt is caught offside. Richard Dunne takes the free kick.6:59
Free kick taken by Jamie Carragher.6:59 Booking
Booking Nigel Reo-Coker booked for unsporting behaviour.6:43
Free kick awarded for a foul by Nigel Reo-Coker on Jay Spearing.4:43
Nigel Reo-Coker gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Fabio Aurelio. Fabio Aurelio restarts play with the free kick.1:05
Nigel Reo-Coker gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Raul Meireles. Raul Meireles takes the free kick.0:34
The official flags Luis Suarez offside. Free kick taken by Kyle Walker.0:00
The match has kicked off.
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