Blackburn Rovers was relegated from English soccer’s Premier League after losing 1-0 at home to Wigan Athletic, which secured its top-flight status.
Antolin Alcaraz’s 87th-minute header at Ewood Park last night gave Wigan the victory that lifted it to 15th place with 40 points, five clear of the three-team drop zone with one round of matches remaining.
Blackburn had needed to win to have any chance of extending its 11-season stay in the Premier League. Rovers join last-place Wolverhampton Wanderers in being demoted to the second-tier Championship.
“I’m numb, along with the players, along with the fans,” Blackburn manager Steve Kean told his club’s website. “It is a massive setback for us, but we have to regroup and we need to build a squad to get us back into this division and move the club forward again.”
The third relegation spot, currently occupied by Bolton Wanderers in 18th place with 35 points, will be decided on the final day of the season on May 13. Reading and Southampton secured the two automatic promotion spots from the Championship, while West Ham will playoff against Birmingham or Blackpool on May 19 for the other berth.
Bolton visits Stoke in the final round of Premier League games, when 17th-place Queens Park Rangers travels to leader Manchester City and 16th-place Aston Villa is at Norwich. QPR has 37 points, while Villa has 38 and a superior goal difference than its closest rivals.
Blackburn was one of the 12 founding members of the English football league in the late 19th century and more recently was the 1995 Premier League champion after being taken over by local businessman Jack Walker. Venky’s (India) Ltd., which runs poultry farms, bought the club for 46 million pounds ($74 million) in November 2010.
Rovers are the only former Premier League champions to be relegated. They were also demoted in 1999 before winning back promotion for the 2001-02 season.
“We need to make a real fist of it from the first game of next season to get us back where we belong,” Kean added.
Blackburn striker Ayegbeni Yakubu had a 55th-minute volley blocked on the goal-line last night and Rovers had appeals for a penalty rejected when Junior Hoilett appeared to be caught by Emmerson Boyce’s swinging boot in the area.
Alcaraz headed in from Jean Beausejour’s corner kick late on to seal Wigan’s sixth victory in eight games, a run that included wins against top-five teams Manchester United, Arsenal and Newcastle.
It was also Wigan’s first Premier League triumph at Blackburn, and extended its run in the elite division to eight seasons.
“It’s been such a difficult season with the ups and downs,” Wigan manager Roberto Martinez told the British Broadcasting Corp. “It’s finished with a fantastic moment of form with great results, historic results for us. Now’s the time to look back at them and start enjoying them.”