Swansea City’s seven-season stay in the Premier League came to an end on Sunday as the Welsh side joined West Brom and Stoke City in being relegated to the Championship.
Needing to beat Stoke, Southampton to lose to Manchester City and a 10-goal swing in goal difference in their favour, Swansea were realistically relegated when Huddersfield guaranteed their survival by holding Chelsea on Wednesday.
However, a 2-1 home defeat to Stoke sealed their fate to cap a 10-game winless streak to end a sorry season.
Liverpool warmed up for their Champions League semi-final second leg against Roma with a low-key goalless draw against Stoke at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp’s side head to the Italian capital on Wednesday with a 5-2 advantage from the first leg and do so the back of a Premier League match they controlled for long periods without over-exerting themselves in search of a winner.
The result left Liverpool with a healthy cushion over fifth-placed Chelsea and in need of a maximum of four points from their two remaining matches to guarantee qualification for Champions League.
Relegation-threatened Stoke remain in the drop zone with only two games left to avoid slipping into the Championship.
“Today was a difficult, intense time for us. I saw everything I wanted to see except fluency and fun and joy,” Klopp said.
“It is hard on a day like this. Stoke were a little lucky in some situations, it looked a clear penalty.”
Klopp’s programme notes featured a message he has stated with regularity in recent weeks; that Liverpool’s focus on a top four finish in the Premier League should not be neglected despite their progress in European competition.
The Reds manager made five changes from the side which beat Roma, with Sadio Mane the most notable absentee from the starting line-up with a thigh problem.
However, despite Klopp’s words, it was almost inevitable the intensity of that thrilling victory over the Italian side would not be replicated against Stoke.
The Potters have never won a top-flight match at Anfield – the longest winless away run in top-flight history – with their last league victory in Division Two in 1959.
There was never any danger of that statistic being altered as Liverpool dominated, yet only sporadically tested visiting goalkeeper Jack Butland.
This was also a game where Mohamed Salah endured, by his exceptionally high standards, a rare off day.
Indeed it was the first time since Liverpool’s match against Swansea on December 26 last year that Salah has not found the net in the Premier League on home turf.
The Egypt international did have a golden opportunity to score his 32nd league goal of the season in the fifth minute.
Salah was sent clear and when he clipped the ball over Jack Butland the Liverpool supporters were celebrating, only for disbelief to dawn when the shot did not hit the target.
Stoke’s attacking ambition was fleeting and largely centred around seeking to hit Liverpool on the counter-attack.
A tame header from Mame Diouf, which hit the side netting, was the best the visitors could muster in a first half in which Liverpool monopolised the clear-cut opportunities.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, who started in midfield, got the ball stuck under his feet after he had exchanged passes with Salah but was unable to generate sufficient power to trouble Butland.
Georginio Wijnaldum hit the side netting from distance, Salah curled a free-kick just wide, while Danny Ings volleyed in from a tight angle only for the assistant referee to flag him offside.
There was a hush around Anfield just before half-time when captain Jordan Henderson lay on the turf clutching his Achilles, however after treatment the midfielder was able to continue.
Attacking the Kop End in the second half, Liverpool’s tempo increased although it failed to translate into clear goalscoring chances.
Liverpool’s players vociferously appealed for a penalty three minutes from time when the ball struck the arm of Erik Pieters inside the box from Wijnaldum’s cross but referee Andre Marriner waved them away.
Stoke then went close at the death when Diouf’s low cross flashed across the area with nobody able to apply the decisive touch, but Paul Lambert will have been more than satisfied with a point.
Chelsea demonstrated the yawning chasm in squad depth that exists in the Premier League with a 5-0 canter past Stoke City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
While both sides rotated their squads after a hectic series of fixtures, Chelsea maintained their quality on the pitch in a scintillating opening half-hour, racing into a 3-0 lead and effectively winning the match through goals from Antonio Rudiger, Danny Drinkwater and Pedro.
A late Willian penalty and a fine individual effort from Davide Zappacosta completed the scoring in a game that had long since ceased to be a contest.
By contrast, Stoke’s team selection suggested manager Mark Hughes was prioritising Monday’s New Year’s Day game at home to fellow strugglers Newcastle United.
Teenage full-backs Tom Edwards and Josh Tymon both started while influential midfielders Joe Allen and Xherdan Shaqiri were named as substitutes.
It took just two minutes and 35 seconds for Stoke’s makeshift side to be exposed. Willian sent over a long, looping free-kick to the far post where Rudiger rose to head powerfully home.
It was 2-0 after eight minutes.
This time Stoke did manage to clear a set piece, a corner on this occasion, only to see the ball drop to Drinkwater just outside the area.
A touch to control and a swish of his right boot later and the ball was flying into the top corner, leaving Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland helpless.
A third goal seemed inevitable and it arrived after 23 minutes.
Willian slipped the ball to Pedro who allowed it to drift across his body, wrongfooting Tymon in the process, before striking it low into the corner of Butland’s net.
At this point, it appeared that the record Premier League victory -– Manchester United’s 9-0 win over Ipswich in 1995 -– could possibly be eclipsed.
Instead Chelsea’s intensity dropped.
This gave Charlie Adam more time in midfield. The Scot used it wisely, floating a delightful ball into the path of Mame Biram Diouf, who used his upper arm to control it before he slotted his shot under the body of Thibaut Courtois. The goal was rightly disallowed.
Stoke then fashioned another opportunity in the opening minutes of the second half.
However, Saido Berahino’s understandable lack of confidence having not scored since February 2016 saw him shoot tamely at Courtois.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte’s thoughts were already turning towards Wednesday’s London derby trip to Arsenal. The Italian removed Victor Moses, N’Golo Kante and Alvaro Morata by the 71st minute.
Two minutes later, Chelsea had their fourth goal. Willian, who was clearly bundled over by Geoff Cameron in the area, sent Butland the wrong way with his penalty.
With the game nearing its conclusion, Zappacosta chose the moment to score his first Premier League goal, collecting the ball on the right, cutting inside and driving a low shot past Butland.
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting ended Manchester United’s perfect start to the Premier League season as his first two goals on Saturday for Stoke secured a 2-2 draw against Jose Mourinho’s side.
Choupo-Moting gave Stoke the lead before grabbing the crucial equaliser after Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku had put United ahead.
The Cameroon forward’s goals were the first United had conceded in four league fixtures this season and Stoke became the first opponents to deny them victory.
The draw was enough to keep United on top of the table, ahead of Manchester City on goal difference, but the goals they conceded either side of half-time will be a concern for Mourinho.
Stoke’s summer signing scored on 43 and 63 minutes with Rashford equalising with a lucky, involuntary header on the stroke of half-time before Lukaku’s fourth goal in as many United appearances gave them a lead that lasted for just six minutes.
Stoke threatened first as Choupo-Moting chased a chip over the United back four and Eric Bailly had to race back to make an important challenge to concede a corner.
United took the sting out of Stoke’s early attacks and had some promising possession of their own but they had a further scare in the 18th minute.
After a largely scrappy first half in which Stoke more than held their own, they claimed the lead two minutes before the break.
The goal, which was made by two former United players with Darren Fletcher angling a pass to the right and Mame Diouf delivering a dangerous cross for Choupo-Moting to sneak ahead of Bailly and tap home.