LONDON: A dramatic final few minutes of the Premier League season saw Liverpool and Chelsea – despite the latter’s defeat – secure Champions League qualification as Leicester fell short.
Leicester needed to win to regain a slot among the European elite but, after leading 2-1 in front of their own fans, they conceded two late goals to substitute Gareth Bale and lost 4-2 to Tottenham.
Spurs thus secured a place in the new UEFA Conference League to foil Arsenal who will miss out on European competition for the first time in 26 years.
Harry Kane scored one of Tottenham’s earlier goals to finish – for the third time – as the league’s 23-goal top scorer, one ahead of Liverpool’s Mo Salah.
West Ham return to Europe in the Europa League after beating Southampton 3-0.
A win over Crystal Palace was always going to be enough for Liverpool to secure a place in next season’s Champions League, provided Leicester didn’t come up with a four-goal swing against Tottenham. It meant they were huge favourites heading into the final day.
They didn’t disappoint as they beat the Eagles 2-0 in Roy Hodgson’s final game in charge.
Liverpool’s late surge in form was impressive, but their run to the top four will be best remembered for a dramatic last-minute winner from goalkeeper Alisson against West Brom, without which they would likely be playing Europa League football in 2021/22.
To say Chelsea stumbled over the line into the top four is an understatement.
Defeat to Leicester in the FA Cup final was a bitter blow for Thomas Tuchel’s side, but they did manage to bounce back in the league tie with victory against the Foxes just days later – which proved crucial.
Tuchel’s men lost 2-1 at Aston Villa on the final day, but got away with it thanks to Tottenham doing them a favour.
They twice led Tottenham in their final game, and Aston Villa even did them a favour by beating Chelsea at Villa Park, but a late capitulation from Brendan Rodgers’ side saw them lose 4-2 and fall out of the Champions League places on the final day for the second successive season.
But a 3-1 midweek win over West Brom meant David Moyes’ side held all the cards in the top-six race heading into the final day, with a draw being enough to confirm Europa League spot.
They duly delivered, thrashing Southampton 3-0 to coast home.
Spurs’ 3-1 defeat at Leeds all-but ended their chances of a top-four finish, and the best they could hope for heading into the final day was a place in next season’s Europa League – something that became a long shot after a 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa in midweek.
They did finish with a flourish though, winning 4-2 at Leicester to clinch seventh place and qualification for the inaugural Europa Conference League.