Chelsea defeated Everton 2-1 at home to clinch third place in English soccer’s Premier League while Arsenal’s 1-0 victory at Newcastle allowed the Gunners to grab the final Champions League spot.
Juan Mata scored in the seventh minute and Everton’s Steven Naismith tied yesterday’s match seven minutes later. Fernando Torres scored his first league goal since December in the 76th minute to earn the win for Chelsea.
It was the last game for Rafael Benitez, who became interim manager at Chelsea in November and won the Europa League title. Blues fans didn’t warm to the former Liverpool coach and he said in February that he would depart after the season.
“It’s not just what we achieved, it’s the team we achieved these things with,” Benitez said. “It’s a team in transition with young players and a lot of circumstances surrounding it.”
Arsenal needed to win to ensure a spot in the Champions League, Europe’s top club competition, for the 16th straight season. The victory at Newcastle secured fourth place, one point ahead of north London rival Tottenham, which will play in the Europa League next season.
The Gunners took the lead when defender Laurent Koscielny volleyed Theo Walcott’s free kick into the net in the 52nd minute. Walcott hit the post in stoppage time.
“It’s the most nervous I’ve ever been,” Walcott said. “We had to dig deep.”
At White Hart Lane, Spurs needed to beat Sunderland to have any chance of finishing ahead of Arsenal in the standings. The visiting team was reduced to 10 men with 15 minutes left when David Vaughan was shown the red card. Tottenham couldn’t take advantage until the 90th minute when Gareth Bale scored his 21st league goal of the season.
Also on the last day, champion Manchester United twice blew a three-goal lead in drawing 5-5 at West Brom in Alex Ferguson’s 1,500th and final match in charge. Romelu Lukaku’s hat trick helped West Brom earn the home draw .
Shinji Kagawa, Alexander Buttner and an own-goal from Jonas Olsson gave United a 3-0 lead, before James Morrison was able to pull one back. Lukaku scored in the 50th, 81st and 86th minutes with Youssouf Mulumbu scoring in the 81st as well. Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez got United’s other goals in the first 5-5 draw since the Premier League began in 1992.
“He is going to remember this game,” Hernandez said of Ferguson. “It’s probably the first time United have been 5-2 ahead and not won.”
Manchester City, last season’s champion, lost 3-2 at home to Norwich six days after firing manager Roberto Mancini. Jack Rodwell scored twice for City, which gave up goals to Anthony Pilkington, Grant Holt and Jonathan Howson.
Liverpool beat Queens Park Rangers 1-0 on a 23rd-minute goal by Phillippe Coutinho, while Southampton came back with a Rickie Lambert goal to tie Stoke 1-1 at home.
Kevin Nolan scored a hat trick to propel West Ham to a 4-2 home win against Reading, while Fulham won 3-0 at Swansea as Alex Kacaniklic, Dimitar Berbatov and Urby Emanuelson scored. Wigan Athletic and Aston Villa drew 2-2.
F.A. Cup champion Wigan, Reading and Queens Park Rangers had already been assured of dropping out of the 20-team elite division entering the final day of the season.
Cardiff City and Hull City won Premier League promotion by finishing first and second in the Championship. Watford and Crystal Palace playoff for the other berth May 27.
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