Five Spices From Chairman Damon
Log on to this page after each round of games for the lowdown on how each team fared. He’s harsh, but fair and you won’t find anything quite like it elsewhere. Enjoy our Chairman’s pithy post match analysis of the overpaid heroes and goats that make up the “Happy Band” of the EPL. If you're in the prawn sandwich and skim latte club, or part of the "Dippy Darling" brigade this column is not for you!!
Who's hot? Who's not? Who's left their bottle at home? Watch this space carefully as the season unwinds.
Who was hot before? Visit Damon's 2008/09 season archives to find out!
Previous Analysis: Round Thirty-Seven.... Round Thirty-Six.... Round Thirty-Five.... Round Thirty-Four.... Round Thirty-Three.... Round Thirty-Two
It was a dramatic final day in the Premier League, with teams dropping in and out of the relegation zone throughout the ninety minutes.
It's with some sadness we wave goodbye to Blackpool. When you have to sit through all ten Premier League matches every week, you do so in the secure knowledge the Tangerines will make your time worthwhile. At Old Trafford, the Seasiders went about the match as they had done all season - take the game to the opponent because you know the defence isn't really up to snuff. Man United took the lead when Park Ji-Sung collected Dimitar Berbatov's slick lay-off and all-too-easily passed Ian Evatt before lifting the ball over Matt Gilks. Blackpool never give up and Charlie Adam threw them a lifeline when curling home a trademark free-kick on forty minutes. Things looked even brighter for Ian Holloway's side when Gary Taylor-Fletcher acrobatically turned home David Vaughan's cross just before the hour. Then it all turned sour. Five minutes after Taylor-Fletcher's goal, Anderson swept Park's cross beyond Gilks into the far corner. With fifteen minutes left, Evatt attempted to cut out Chris Smalling's cross with his right foot when he'd have been better advised leading with his left and only succeeded in slicing the ball past his own keeper. Michael Owen then came off the bench to sign off his United Premier League career with a goal, timing his run well to collect Anderson's pass and beat Gilks emphatically. Blackpool go down having scored more goals in doing so than anyone since the 1960s. Unfortunately, they let in far too many for their own good.
There was better news for those of us who enjoy the entertainers as Wigan picked up a cucial win at Stoke to ensure their safety. The Latics were under the cosh for much of the first half, signally struggling to deal with Rory Delap's trademark boomers from the sidelines. Jonathon Walters had the ball in the net for the home side, only to be correctly flagged up as offside, and Ali Al Habsi was having a solid afternoon between the sticks. Wigan improved after the break and a win suddenly didn't look as long as shot as it had for the first forty-five minutes. Jermaine Pennant was fortunate Charles N'Zogbia looked to stay on his feet with the City winger leaning on him in the area but with twelve minutes left, the away side got their reward. N'Zogbia found space down the left to swing in a cross and Hugo Rodallega, a villain just a couple of weeks ago, made sure he was first to the ball to head in. Cue pandemonium in the away section and the team in blue were able to hold out and guarantee a seventh successive year of Premier League football.
There will be no more of that for at least one season for Birmingham, as the Carling Cup holders went down at White Hart Lane. The game started with Spurs all over the Blues like a rash and the visitors, as is generally their want, smothering the opposition attacks with superb commitment. Four minutes into the second half, City's game plan had to change after Roman Pavlyuchenko made the most of a breakdown in play some twenty-five yards from goal to curl a superb effort beyond Ben Foster and open the scoring. That they weren't able to change that game plan is effectively the reason they were relegated. They did get on terms with eleven minutes to play, with Craig Gardner lashing into the net from distance but, suddenly needing a second goal as results elsewhere started to go against them, conceded a second Pavlyuchenko belter to definitively put them down.
The quicksand Birmingham found themselves standing on was of Wolves' making. The Black Country side hosted Blackburn with both sides knowing a win would guarantee safety for another year. With Wanderers strangely hesitant, however, the first half went all the way of Rovers. They took the lead on twenty-two minutes when Jason Roberts nipped in to put the finishing touch to Michel Salgado's wayward drive from distance. Brett Emerton doubled the lead seven minutes before the break with a wonderful right-footed volley after the Wanderers defence had got in each others' way trying to defend Paul Robinson's hoof into the box. On the stroke of half-time, Wolves looked down and out when David Hoillett tricked his way inside three defenders before scorching a low shot past Wayne Hennesey. But the situation at the foot of the table remained close and the home side, booed off at half time, came out for the second half with renewed purpose. Jamie O'Hara gave them some hope a quarter of an hour from time when he found the bottom corner after a training-ground free-kick routine had seen the ball squared to him by Stephen Hunt. Hunt then sent the home fans wild with an excellent curling effort three minutes from time. The goal meant Wolves were suddenly ahead of their West Midlands neighbours on goals scored and ... well, we know how chasing that last goal went for Birmingham. Breathless stuff.
At the top, Tottenham's win over Birmingham ensured the North Londoners would beat Liverpool to the Europa League qualifying spot. As it was, the Reds came to grief at Aston Villa, with Stewart Downing smacking in the winner on the half-hour to cap what's been the best season for the winger in a long while.
Manchester City, meanwhile, secured a regulation two-nil win at Bolton to qualify for the Champions' League proper. Joleon Lescott got the Sky Blues on their way just before half-time, knowing absolutely nothing about Adam Johnson's corner as it sailed over the head of Vincent Kompany and looped over Jussi Jaaskelainen off the corner of the England man's head. Edin Dzecko ensured his season finished on a positive note when lashing in a second from close range with half an hour left.
Arsenal will have to play a qualifier to get into Europe's premier money-go-round. Their long, slow fizzling out of their season ended with a draw at Fulham. Steve Sidwell put the Cottagers ahead on twenty-six minutes, guiding a finish through Wojciech Szczesny's legs from Bobby Zamora's lay-off. Robin van Persie had the Gunners level within three minutes, only for Zamora to head his side back in front twelve minutes into the second half. Fulham were looking comfortable until Zoltan Gera blotted his side's Fair Play copybook somewhat suspiciously with a horrible, out-of-character, two-footed lunge on Thomas Vermaelen. Arsenal made the most of their numerical superiority to grab a last-minute equaliser through Theo Walcott. But they'll be disappointed down at the Emirates'.
Newcastle and West Brom cap happy seasons for both clubs with a pulsating draw at St. James's. Steven Taylor's close range turn and shot on sixteen minutes put the Magpies in front and Peter Lovenkrands doubled the lead when Scott Carson failed to get a solid parry to the striker's chip and ended up catching the ball behind the line. When Jonas Olsson sliced into his own net "doing an Ian Evatt", the Baggies could probably have been forgiven if they gave up for the day. Not a bit of it, though. Somen Tchoyi took his opportunity in the spotlight to bag a hat-trick and earn his side a point. With half an hour left, the Cameroonian sprung the offside trap before lifting a finish over Tim Krul. Ten minutes later, he was cutting on from the left before hammering an effort into the roof of the net and then, in the final minute, up he popped again to head home Olsson's cross as the defender made some amends. Lovely stuff.
West Ham bowed out with a whimper, getting their arses handed to them by Sunderland at Upton Park. Boudewijn Zenden headed the Black Cats in front from Mohamed Almahamody's cross just after the quarter of an hour mark. The impressive Stephane Sessagnon doubled the visitors' lead five minutes after the break, after being alllowed to advance deep into Hammers' territory before rifling a shot into the bottom corner. Christian Riveros then opened his Sunderland account in the last minute, fairly leathering the ball past Robert Green after being gifted all the freedom of the penalty area.
And finally, Carlo Ancelotti bid farewell to the Premier League in a similarly limp manner as Chelsea went down at Goodison. There was a definite end-of-season feel at Goodison Park and the closest the Blues' came was when John Terry's well-hit drive cannoned off the post in the second half. The winning goal was one to enrich any game, though, with ex-Chelsea schoolboy Jermaine Beckford carrying the ball three quarters of the length of the pitch, beating players and catching a break as he went, before dinking a finish over Petr Cech. A sad end for the likeable Italian but Stamford Bridge is something of a nuthouse, these days.
Aston Villa 1 - Liverpool 0
Bolton Wanderers 0 - Manchester City 2
Everton 1 - Chelsea 0
Fulham 2 - Arsenal 2
Manchester United 4 - Blackpool 2 *
Newcastle United 3 - West Bromwich Albion 3
Stoke City 0 - Wigan Athletic 1
Tottenham Hotspur 2 - Birmingham City 1 *
West Ham United 0 - Sunderland 3
Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 - Blackburn Rovers 3
* Blackpool and Birmingham relegated with West Ham