Wigan complete unlikely escape

Latics go from 19th to 16th with win at Stoke as Blackburn and Wolves survive at expense of Blackpool and Birmingham.

    Rodallega heads Wigan's winner as they survive to play a seventh straight Premier League season [GALLO/GETTY]

    Wigan Athletic, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers all celebrated survival on the last day of the English Premier League season as results conspired to send Blackpool and League Cup-winners Birmingham City into the second tier.

    Starting the day in 19th, Hugo Rodallega scored for a 1-0 result at Stoke City to fire Wigan into 16th place thanks to Manchester United's 4-2 win over Blackpool and Tottenham's 2-1 win over Birmingham.

    Blackburn beat Wolves, who had started a point above Wigan and Blackpool on 40 points, as both survived.

    Manchester City took third place and direct entry to the European Champions League on a dramatic final day on Sunday.

    Blackpool briefly led 2-1 at Manchester United but lost 4-2 to the champions to go down after one season and Birmingham went down 2-1 at Tottenham Hotspur for a bitter end to a season that had looked so good when they won the League Cup.

    Wolves survived by coming from 3-0 down to lose 3-2 to Blackburn Rovers, a defeat that was celebrated as if they had won the league, and secured Blackburn's safety.

    Wigan spent most of the afternoon in the drop zone before a late goal secured a 1-0 win at Stoke City and dragged them to safety.

    Manchester City beat Bolton Wanderers 2-0 away to clinch third place and go straight into the group stage of the Champions League.

    Final day results

    Sunday May 22

     Aston Villa 1-0 Liverpool
     Bolton 0-2 Man City
     Everton 1-0 Chelsea
     Fulham 2-2 Arsenal
     Man Utd 4-2 Blackpool
     Newcastle 3-3 West Brom
     Stoke City 0-1 Wigan
     Tottenham 2-1 Birmingham
     West Ham 0-3 Sunderland
     Wolves 2-3 Blackburn 

    Arsenal drew 2-2 at Fulham to finish fourth and face an awkward playoff round in Europe's premier competition.

    Spurs took fifth spot and a place in the Europa League after Liverpool lost 1-0 at Aston Villa.

    Record title

    United's victory made it 18 wins and a draw from 19 home games and they finished the season that brought their record 19th title on 80 points.

    Chelsea were second on 71 after losing to 10-man Everton, for whom Jermaine Beckford scored a superb goal after a length of the pitch run.

    Man City were third, also on 71, and after winning the FA Cup last week they can now look forward to a first taste of Champions League football.

    Arsenal finished fourth on 68 after a poor end to the season that brought only two wins from 11 matches.

    Tottenham's victory kept them safely in fifth on 62 points, four ahead of Liverpool.

    West Ham, beaten 3-0 at home by Sunderland, finished bottom on 33.

    Blackpool were second-last on 39 with Birmingham also on 39. Wolves escaped on 40 points, with Wigan on 42 and Blackburn on 43.

    The day's tally of 32 goals set a record for the number scored in a season since the league became a 20-team competition, the total of 1,063 topping the 1999/2000 tally by three.

    "That has been the drama of this season – 39 points would normally be safe and I'm devastated for the fans," said Birmingham manager Alex McLeish.

    "The quality in the lower half of the table this season has been amazing."

    That result meant there was a double party at Molineux with Blackburn and Wolves fans celebrating together as the away side's 3-2 win somehow ensured the safety of both teams.

    Wolves looked doomed as they trailed 3-0, dropping into the relegation zone variously on points, goal difference and goals scored.

    Jamie O'Hara pulled one back after 73 minutes and with thousands of fans, radios glued to their ears, chanting "we only need one goal" Stephen Hunt delivered it three minutes from time to lift them above Birmingham to safety.

    "I'm not sure my ticker can take it but it's brilliant," said Wolves manager Mick McCarthy. "It was a great second-half performance. I know we've lost but they're all winners." 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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