Manchester City beat Stoke 3-0 to take third place from Arsenal in the Premier League, while Reading defeated Cardiff by the same score to move to within one win of rejoining English soccer’s elite division.
Carlos Tevez scored twice and Joleon Lescott got the other goal in Manchester last night.
City also beat Stoke four days ago in the F.A. Cup final to end a 35-year trophy drought. The club owned by Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan can clinch an automatic place in next season’s Champions League by beating Bolton in the last round of league games on May 22.
“We have a very good chance of finishing third which would be perfect,” City manager Roberto Mancini told his club’s website. “There is a big difference between finishing fourth and having to qualify for the Champions League and third, where you go straight into the group stage.”
A victory at Bolton would secure City’s highest English league finish since 1977, when it was the runner-up. City holds a one-point advantage over Arsenal, which visits London rival Fulham on the final day. The fourth-place team enters a two-game playoff for a spot in the Champions League group stages.
Tevez opened the scoring last night with a 14th-minute strike after exchanging passes with James Milner and beating two Stoke defenders. Lescott made it 2-0 with a header in the 53rd minute and Tevez added the third 12 minutes later by bending in a 30-yard (27 meter) free kick.
Tevez, who had a transfer request rejected in December, will probably stay at City next season, Mancini said. The striker is torn between remaining at the club and being closer to his daughters, who live with his estranged partner in his native Argentina, the Daily Express reported May 16.
“He has told me he wants to stay,” Mancini said. “He has a five-year contract at this football club and I don’t think there are any problems. I have spoken with him many times over the last three weeks and it’s my opinion he will remain a Manchester City player.”
Reading will face Swansea on May 30 for a place in the Premier League after winning at Cardiff in the second game of their Championship playoff semifinal.
Republic of Ireland striker Shane Long scored two first-half goals, the second coming from the penalty spot, before Jobi McAnuff sealed a 3-0 victory over the two matches following last week’s 0-0 draw.
$146 Million Match
Winning the playoff final at London’s Wembley Stadium is worth about 90 million pounds ($146 million), accountant Deloitte LLP estimates. The winner benefits from at least 40 million pounds in additional revenue and is guaranteed payments of at least 48 million pounds in the following four seasons if relegated straight away.
Reading last played in the Premier League in the 2007-08 season, while Swansea is seeking to return to England’s top division for the first time in 28 years.
“The target at the beginning of the season has always been promotion, whether that be automatic or through the playoffs,” Long told Reading’s website. “We go into the game as underdogs again. That is exactly what we want -- we do well from that.”