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Nervy Liverpool seal Champions League place with Middlesbrough win

Liverpool clinched a place in next season’s Champions League after overcoming some early nerves to thump Middlesbrough 3-0 at Anfield.

The Reds knew a victory would guarantee them a top-four finish and they eventually achieved their target to return to Europe’s elite for only the second time in the last eight campaigns.

Jurgen Klopp’s men laboured for much of the first half – and survived a big penalty appeal from Patrick Bamford – before Georginio Wijnaldum’s sixth of the season just prior to the interval relieved some of the tension that was building inside the stadium.

The Merseysiders stepped it up in the second period and ran out comfortable winners to finish fourth, thanks to a Philippe Coutinho free kick and Adam Lallana’s first of 2017.

It meant there was no last-day drama as Liverpool responded to news that third-placed Manchester City and Arsenal were both winning with a controlled display overall, leaving the Gunners to miss out on the Champions League for the first time in over two decades.

The Reds will now play in the play-off round in August, while Klopp’s immediate attention will turn towards transfer plans buoyed by the fact they can offer the lure of playing in Europe’s premier competition.