PREMIER LEAGUE: Gunners win the race for fourth

FAMILIAR TERRITORY::A 1-0 win secured Arsenal’s 16th straight Champions League campaign, while Alex Ferguson’s final game in charge of Manchester United ended 5-5


Tue, May 21, 2013 - Page 20

Arsenal won the race for fourth place in the Premier League with a 1-0 victory at Newcastle United, while Sir Alex Ferguson’s extraordinary career ended in remarkable fashion as Manchester United drew 5-5 at West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.

Arsene Wenger’s side needed three points to guarantee a spot in next season’s UEFA Champions League qualification rounds ahead of north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Laurent Koscielny’s second-half strike ensured they achieved that aim.

Koscielny’s goal meant more heartache for Spurs, who once again had to settle for a place in the Europa League that comes with finishing fifth, despite their 1-0 win against Sunderland at White Hart Lane.

“The players are special. I’ve told them many times, but they’ve shown it in the last two months, they’ve been absolutely exceptional,” Wenger said.

Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas said: “It is difficult to take. In the end we did what we had to, but Arsenal did their job well and go through.”

Ferguson was taking charge of United for the 1,500th and final time before retiring and the 71-year-old Scot, given a guard of honor before kickoff, looked set to bow out with a win as the Premier League champions romped into a 5-2 lead, but Albion scored three times in the last nine minutes in an incredible finish to spoil Ferguson’s farewell at The Hawthorns.

“Five-five, what a mad result. Lets be honest, the boss was never going out with a boring 0-0,” United defender Rio Ferdinand tweeted after the first Premier League game ever to finish 5-5.

Ferguson saluted United’s fans at the final whistle, but refused to speak to the media and, stopping only to describe the occasion as “emotional, very emotional,” he headed off into retirement after sharing a glass of red wine with Albion manager Steve Clarke.

“He knew what it was,” Clarke said of the 2003 Chateau Pontet Canet. “He said it was a good year. I am not sure Sir Alex enjoyed the game that much though.”

At St James’ Park, Arsenal bagged the priceless goal when French defender Koscielny swiveled to volley home from close range after Lukas Podolski flicked on Theo Walcott’s free-kick in the 52nd minute.

The victory secured Arsenal’s 16th consecutive Champions League qualification and will ease the pain of another trophyless season for the Gunners, who trailed Tottenham by seven points at the start of March.

Spurs struggled to break down Sunderland until the closing moments, even though Black Cats midfielder David Vaughan was sent off for a second booking in the 75th minute.

They finally took the lead when Bale cracked a stunning strike into the top corner from long range in the 90th minute, but Arsenal were just seconds away from victory by then.

Since taking charge of United for the first time in a 2-0 defeat at Oxford United on Nov. 8, 1986, Ferguson has amassed an incredible 38 trophies, including 13 Premier League titles and two Champions League crowns.

It was his swansong, as well as the final game before retirement for United midfielder Paul Scholes, who came on as a second-half substitute, and it was suitably dramatic.

Japan international midfielder Shinji Kagawa got United’s first in the sixth minute and Albion defender Jonas Olsson then scored a ninth-minute own-goal.

Alexander Buttner smashed in United’s third in the 30th minute, before James Morrison got one back for the hosts in the 40th.

Romelu Lukaku scored for Albion in the 50th minute, before Robin van Persie netted for United three minutes later and Javier Hernandez bagged the fifth in the 63rd.

Yet Albion provided an incredible finale as Lukaku and Youssouf Mulumbu both scored in the space of 60 seconds in the 81st minute, before on-loan Chelsea striker Lukaku completed his hat-trick to equalize in the 86th minute.

Ferguson will be succeeded at Old Trafford by Everton manager David Moyes, who saw his team beaten 2-1 at third-placed Chelsea in his farewell after an 11-year reign.

Chelsea midfielder Juan Mata slotted home in the seventh minute, Steven Naismith equalized for Everton seven minutes later, but Fernando Torres struck the winner in the 76th minute.

“It’s emotional because it’s the last time I walk away from the players, but part of the job is you move on,” Moyes said.

Chelsea’s interim manager Rafael Benitez, who masterminded the team’s Europa League final victory over SL Benfica in Amsterdam last week, was also saying goodbye, with Jose Mourinho reportedly lined up to return to west London once he quits Real Madrid.

On a day of emotional farewells, Jamie Carragher captained Liverpool on his 737th and final appearance for the club, a 1-0 win over already-relegated Queens Park Rangers at Anfield.

Carragher hit the post in the second half, but Philippe Coutinho got the only goal, lashing home from long range in the 23rd minute.

Manager-less Manchester City, already guaranteed to finish second, were beaten 3-2 at home by Norwich City.

Stoke City striker Michael Owen made a 16-minute cameo appearance before his retirement in his team’s 1-1 draw at Southampton.

FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic, already relegated, drew 2-2 with Aston Villa, while second-from-bottom Reading lost 4-2 at West Ham United and Fulham won 3-0 at Swansea City.