Man City, Liverpool secure Champions League places

Sergio Aguero scored twice to make it 33 goals for the season in all competitions, his most prolific season since joining City in 2011, with Vincent Kompany, Fernandinho and Gabriel Jesus also netting at Vicarage Road.

Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez looks dejected during the English Premier League match against Everton.   -  AP

Manchester City secured direct progress to next season’s Champions League group stage by thrashing Watford 5-0 on Sunday to finish third in the Premier League while Liverpool overcame some early tension to beat already relegated Middlesbrough 3-0 and finish in fourth, sealing a place in the qualifying stages of next season’s Champions League.

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Sergio Aguero scored twice to make it 33 goals for the season in all competitions, his most prolific season since joining City in 2011, with Vincent Kompany, Fernandinho and Gabriel Jesus also netting at Vicarage Road.

In its first season under manager Pep Guardiola, City didn’t win a trophy but has achieved the minimum requirement of returning to the Champions League.

By staying above fourth-placed Liverpool on the final day of the season, City will not have to go through qualifying like the team had to last season.

Liverpool strolls after early scare

With half-time approaching at a nervy Anfield, Liverpool was being held 0-0 and in danger of being replaced in the top four by fifth-placed Arsenal, which was winning at home to Everton at that stage.

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Georginio Wijnaldum’s injury-time strike put the Reds back in control of their destiny, and second-half goals by Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana wrapped up a comfortable win.

Liverpool will need to win a two-legged playoff in August to play in the Champions League for only the second time in eight seasons, since American-run Fenway Sports Group bought the club in 2010.

Despite almost breaking even in the last offseason while all of its rivals were spending heavily, Liverpool finished in the top four in Juergen Klopp’s first full season in charge.

Wijnaldum was relegated with Newcastle last season but has proved to be a player for the big occasion for his new club.

The Netherlands midfielder grabbed the winner against Manchester City on Dec. 31, scored at home to Chelsea and Arsenal, and was arguably Liverpool’s best player in the 2-0 win over Tottenham in February, a result that got the team back on track after a run of poor form.

All six of his goals have come at home, none more important than Sunday’s.

It was the first occasion where a midfield runner broke from deep beyond Middlesbrough’s packed defense, with Wijnaldum found by a deft flick by Roberto Firmino. The finish from the angle was unforgiving, high inside goalkeeper Brad Guzan’s near post.

The relief was palpable inside Anfield, and the second half was like a celebration.

Coutinho kept up his brilliant recent form by curling a free kick into the bottom corner in the 51st and Lallana finished off a sweeping counter-attack with a low shot into the corner in the 56th.

The result could have been so different had Middlesbrough been awarded a penalty midway through the first half when Dejan Lovren appeared to haul down Patrick Bamford in the area. Lovren was last man and would have been sent off.

No Champions League for Arsenal

Arsene Wenger’s proud record is over — Arsenal has failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 20 years.

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Any hope of squeezing into the Premier League top four relied on Liverpool or Manchester City slipping up, but they both won easily on Sunday to join Chelsea and Tottenham in entering the Champions League.

So even though Arsenal beat Everton 3-1 to complete the league campaign with five successive wins, the resurgence came too late.

There was little for Arsenal players to celebrate with fans as they embarked on a lap of appreciation after the Premier League finale. Wenger didn’t even join in, remaining on the touchline with his arms folded.

Whether Wenger is back in charge at the Emirates Stadium next season is yet to be resolved. The 67-year-old Frenchman won’t discuss his future until after Saturday’s FA Cup final against Chelsea.

Chelsea is chasing a double. Antonio Conte’s side finally received the Premier League trophy after routing bottom-placed Sunderland 5-1 on Sunday, two weeks after securing a second title in three seasons.

Captain John Terry collected the trophy in the final act of his 22-year association with Chelsea. The defender was substituted in the 26th minute and given a guard of honour by Chelsea teammates.

Tottenham’s wait for a first title since 1961 continues. But the runner-up finished its best season in 54 years in style by beating relegated Hull 7-1.

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