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Man United lose but claim Europa League spot after West Ham slip up

A disappointing season for the Red Devils ended amid a 1-0 loss to Crystal Palace.

Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha celebrates scoring.
Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha celebrates scoring.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

WILFRIED ZAHA’S first-half strike earned Crystal Palace a first home win over Manchester United since 1991 and handed his old club one final defeat of a sorry campaign.

The Red Devils, who were watched by new boss Erik Ten Hag in south London, were able to at least avoid the embarrassment of lining up in the Europa Conference League next season due to West Ham losing away to Brighton.

It meant United clinched sixth after this 1-0 defeat but they finished on 58 points – the lowest they have ever accumulated in the Premier League – in a campaign which showed how far they are behind Manchester City and Liverpool, who were involved in a dramatic final day that saw the title again lifted at the Etihad Stadium.

One of Ralf Rangnick’s final acts in charge was to hand Hannibal Mejbri a first league start and there were several other youngsters on the bench at Selhurst Park, including Robbie Savage’s son Charlie.

Patrick Vieira also shuffled his pack and teenager Jesurun Rak-Sakyi was given his full debut for Palace, who had endured a difficult night at Goodison Park on Thursday where they let slip a two-goal lead and saw their manager involved in an altercation with a fan after full time.

It was United who started the better of the two sides with a Bruno Fernandes effort blocked by Conor Gallagher before Edinson Cavani’s scuffed shot was parried away by a wrong-footed Vicente Guaita minutes later.

The visitors knew victory in front of incoming boss Ten Hag would guarantee a place in the Europa League next season and the deadlock should have been broken in the 25th minute when Cavani sent Anthony Elanga away but he dragged wide from inside the penalty area.

Palace were jolted into life after that opportunity with the hosts squandering two openings over their own soon after.

First David De Dea denied Zaha’s left-footed strike before Jeffrey Schlupp fired straight at the Spanish goalkeeper following a superb Odsonne Edouard flick.

The opener did arrive with eight minutes of the first half left and it was ex-United man Zaha who provided it but only after a big helping hand from Fernandes.

Fernandes kicked Alex Telles’ throwback towards his own goal and Zaha latched onto the loose ball, created space away from Diogo Dalot and Victor Lindelof before he rifled into the bottom corner for his 15th goal of the season.

United improved after the break and it was former Monaco attacker Mejbri who did his utmost to get the visitors back on level terms.

Fine defending by Joel Ward denied the teenager after he had raced into the area before his curling shot was tipped over by Guaita.

It was somewhat of a surprise to see Rangnick withdraw Mejbri just past the hour mark and by this point it could have been 2-0 had Conor Gallagher – on the final appearance of his season-long loan – angled his shot inside the post from 20 yards.

More U23s were thrown on by Rangnick with Shola Shoretire and Alejandro Garnacho introduced but the latter could not get on the end of Fernandes’ cross late on.

The final chance fell to Scott McTominay in stoppage time but he blazed wide to highlight the size of the task for Ten Hag, who officially starts on Monday while Palace conclude an excellent first season under Vieira in 12th.

west-ham-uniteds-mark-noble-applauds-the-fans-following-the-premier-league-match-at-the-amex-stadium-brighton-picture-date-sunday-may-22-2022 West Ham United's Mark Noble applauds the fans following the Premier League match at The AMEX Stadium. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

Meanwhile, West Ham missed the chance to snatch a dramatic Europa League return after squandering a lead to lose 3-1 to Brighton at the Amex Stadium.

The Hammers, who suffered semi-final heartbreak in the continental competition just over two weeks ago, were on course to leapfrog Manchester United into sixth position following Michail Antonio’s stunning 40th-minute opener.

But second-half strikes from Joel Veltman, Pascal Gross and Danny Welbeck turned the game in the Seagulls’ favour to prevent David Moyes’ men capitalising on United losing 1-0 at Crystal Palace.

The east London club must be content with a place in the Europa Conference League next term following a result which saw Brighton secure a maiden top-half finish in the Premier League – and the highest league position in the club’s 121-year history.

West Ham arrived on the south coast assured of at least seventh place but only two points behind Ralf Rangnick’s side.

Manager Moyes stuck with the team which began last weekend’s creditable 2-2 draw with Manchester City, while defender Adam Webster replaced the injured Leandro Trossard for Albion.

Brighton began brighter and threatened early on through Moises Caicedo.

But the visitors grew into the game and, shortly after travelling fans celebrated United falling behind at Selhurst Park, took the lead five minutes before the break with their first attempt on target.

Antonio did the damage, outmuscling Lewis Dunk on the edge of the Seagulls’ penalty area following Vladimir Coufal’s throw-in before rifling a stunning left-footed effort into the top left corner.

Brighton boss Graham Potter reacted to the half-time deficit by bringing on striker Neal Maupay in place of midfielder Yves Bissouma.

The attacking alteration had the desired impact as the hosts equalised just five minutes later, aided by a blunder from Hammers goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.

Gross crossed from the left and, after being teed up by Solly March, Dutch defender Veltman drilled a low effort which squirmed beyond Fabianski to claim his first goal of the season.

Brighton continued to have the better of the game. After Welbeck and Webster each flashed efforts narrowly off target, Gross gave them a deserved lead 10 minutes from time.

The creative German midfielder, who is out of contract in the summer but expected to agree a new deal, turned just inside the Hammers box before lashing a left-footed effort beyond Fabianski and high into the net.

Moyes responded by bringing on long-serving club captain Mark Noble for his final appearance before retirement, as well as Ukraine forward Andriy Yarmolenko.

Yet Albion remained the more threatening and should have put the result beyond doubt when the unmarked Welbeck – who, like Gross, is poised to sign a contract extension – headed straight at Fabianski late on.

The former England forward shrugged off that miss in added time, powerfully nodding in Gross’ corner to secure a positive end to a memorable season for the Seagulls, while leaving the visitors with plenty of regrets ahead of their short journey home to the capital.

chelseas-ross-barkley-celebrates-scoring-his-sides-second-goal-of-the-game-during-the-premier-league-match-at-stamford-bridge-london-picture-date-sunday-may-22-2022 Ross Barkley celebrates scoring. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

Elsewhere, Ross Barkley fired the final goal of the Roman Abramovich era as Chelsea edged past Watford 2-1 to tie up a third-place Premier League finish.

One-time England midfielder Barkley could leave Chelsea this summer, and the 28-year-old can be reasonably satisfied if this late winner becomes his Stamford Bridge sign-off.

Kai Havertz’s early tap-in had Chelsea in control until Dan Gosling headed home with two minutes on the clock.

Barkley quickly turned in Reece James’ cross however, to ensure that Chelsea just about ended their home Premier League campaign with more wins than draws.

Stamford Bridge played host to a last-day-of-term affair, with Watford already relegated and Chelsea only requiring to go through the motions to seal third spot.

Abramovich’s Chelsea tenure is now at an end, after 19 years and 21 trophies.

Incoming owner Todd Boehly was on hand at Stamford Bridge again, and finally saw the Blues win in person.

The US magnate was joined by Swiss billionaire and consortium partner Hansjorg Wyss, who enjoyed his first outing at the west London stadium.

Boehly and partners will hope their Chelsea takeover can finally be completed in the coming week, and certainly ahead of the May 31 deadline when the Blues’ temporary operating licence expires.

The end of the Abramovich era will also coincide with the final outing for several Chelsea stars, with Real Madrid-bound Toni Rudiger enjoying a standing ovation on his second-half substitution.

Brazil wing-back Kenedy enjoyed his first Premier League appearance for Chelsea since 2017, and provided the assist for Havertz’s goal.

The 26-year-old still has a year to run on his Chelsea deal, but his solid hour’s work here could yet prove his last appearance in blue.

Saul Niguez will return to Atletico Madrid too, after his Chelsea loan, and he kept shape in his last Blues run-out.

Barkley came off the bench as another who may have turned out for the last time, while Andreas Christensen was not in the squad but is headed to Barcelona.

Club captain Cesar Azpilicueta might just yet join Christensen at the Catalan giants, and after a decade with the Blues, the least the 32-year-old deserved was for this match to end in a home win.

Marcos Alonso was missing too and is yet another Blues star who Barcelona heavily covet.

Abramovich’s UK Government sanctions have left the Blues unable to sign existing players to new deals or to conduct any future transfer business for the last 11 weeks.

The uncertainty around the future ownership might be all-but resolved, but a nucleus of long-serving Chelsea players still do not know their fates.

And that meant neither players nor fans could enjoy the customary goodbye at the final whistle, but at least the home side pulled off the win.

Watford’s defeat spells the end of Roy Hodgson’s remarkable managerial career too, with the 74-year-old adamant that this time, he will retire for good.

The balmy weather did precious little to alleviate the end-of-term atmosphere both on and off the field.

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Neither team faced any jeopardy going into the encounter, and neither side truly added any in a benign first-half.

Havertz had three golden chances in front of goal before the break, and put one of them away.

For the first, a slightly heavy initial touch from Mount’s ball over the top pushed him wide, and the shot was then easily deflected.

The second yield the only goal of the half, with the Germany forward tapping in from Kenedy’s driven cross.

Kenedy sent Havertz through again in the last move of the half, and the 22-year-old angled an effort against the bar.

Both sides coasted through the second-half, until Gosling headed in from Adam Masina’s cross.

That spurred the Blues into action to seek the win, and Barkley delivered, to cap a difficult campaign in at least victorious fashion.

leicester-citys-james-maddison-left-celebrates-scoring-their-sides-first-goal-of-the-game-during-the-premier-league-match-at-the-king-power-stadium-leicester-picture-date-sunday-may-22-2022 Source: Alamy Stock Photo

Finally, James Maddison continued his hot streak to star in Leicester’s 4-1 win over Southampton.

The midfielder’s 18th goal of the season, an Ayoze Perez double and Jamie Vardy’s strike gave the Foxes a comfortable final day win.

James Ward-Prowse’s penalty briefly gave the Saints late hope but Ralph Hasenhuttl’s stuttering side end the campaign 15th.

Leicester finish eighth in the Premier League having been robbed of an injured Vardy for virtually half a season – although the striker still scored 15 league goals.

Boss Brendan Rodgers has also seen his defend ripped apart by injuries and has, rightly, been at pains to highlight the successes this season.

A top-10 finish represents an achievement – even if it drops below their previous high standards – but the Foxes signed off on a high with Southampton.

Timothy Castagne could have started the last day celebrations early only for the defender to plant a header over from six yards.

Leicester were the more dangerous and the skittish Saints defence gave them some encouragement but, aside from Castagne’s miss, the Foxes had been careless going forward.

Vardy – mocked by the away fans amid his wife’s Wagatha Christie trial against Coleen Rooney – tried to sneak in behind but was well marshalled while Harvey Barnes ran down blind alleys.

Southampton, on occasion, would briefly threaten with a break from Adam Armstrong but there was nothing to the Saints who end the season with one win in 12 games.

Vardy failed to get decent contact on Castagne’s teasing cross just before the break but the striker did not have to wait long to play his part in the Foxes’ controversial 49th-minute opener.

After a break in play to deal with a head injury to Vardy, the ball was given to Wesley Fofana who played it back to Kasper Schmeichel.

The goalkeeper launched it long and Lyanco made a mess of his clearance – only to suffer another nightmare when he left a second header back to McCarthy woefully short.

Vardy nipped in and, although he was denied by McCarthy, Maddison gobbled up the rebound to score in a fourth straight game.

Southampton were furious having had possession when the game was stopped and referee Jon Moss had given the ball back to the Foxes.

They tried to hold an on-pitch inquest with Moss, with little success, and then lost Adam Armstrong after a clash of heads with Jonny Evans.

Nathan Redmond planted a tame header at Schmeichel but there was little fightback from the visitors and Leicester doubled the lead with 16 minutes left.

Quick feet from Barnes saw him race away to find Vardy dashing ahead of Lyanco, the striker darted into the area, left Lyanco on his backside, and fired in.

Southampton thought they had a lifeline four minutes later when Ward-Prowse fired in from the spot after Youri Tielemans fouled Stuart Armstrong, only for the Foxes to restore their two-goal lead almost immediately.

Maddison picked out substitute Perez and his smart half volley found the bottom corner. The striker also added a fourth in stoppage time, rifling in Ricardo Pereira’s cutback.

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