LONDON: Arsenal, by winning 3-2 at West Bromwich, finished one point ahead of neighbours Tottenham on a day when third place was more important than ever because Chelsea will ‘steal’ the fourth English slot in the Champions League next season if they beat Bayern in Munich.
Arsenal had to win against a West Bromwich side saying goodbye to England-bound Roy Hodgson. Their long-distance duel with Tottenham, 2:0 home winners over Fulham, see-sawed throughout the afternoon with the clubs repeatedly changing places in the ‘live’ table.
Spurs went third by making a perfect start with a second-minute goal from Emmanuel Adebayor but Arsenal responded at Stoke when Yossi Benayoun struck within another two minutes to regain third spot.
The smile on the face of manager Arsene Wenger, celebrating his 600th Premier League game, soon faded. First Shane Long equalized for West Brom despite being two metres offside then Graham Dorrans put the hosts ahead with a ‘free’ header.
Arsenal levelled with a 25m drive from Andre Santos. Hence they came out for the second half sitting fourth but regained third place when laurent Koscielny put them ahead.
Substitute Jermain Defoe extended Tottenham’s lead midway through the second half but that was enough only for victory on the day, not to achieve third place.
Fifth-placed Newcastle’s faint dreams of reaching the Champions League had been dispatched swiftly in a 3-1 defeat at Everton.
Chelsea and Liverpool, as winners of the FA Cup and League Cup respectively, have already booked their places in the Europa League. So have Newcastle through finishing fifth.
If Chelsea defeat Bayern Munich then Tottenham will drop into the Europa League along with Newcastle.
Should an English team be in the top two of Uefa’s Play Fair league then they could be drawn to take up a fourth place in the Europa League.
At the other end of the table Bolton, after 11 Premier season, joined already-relegated Wolves and Blackburn in the second divison after failing to win at Stoke.
# # # #