Newcastle became the biggest Premier League casualties since Leeds dropped out of the top flight five years ago after a final-day defeat at Aston Villa condemned Alan Shearer’s side to relegation.
The Magpies will be joined in the Championship next season by local rivals Middlesbrough, whose last chance of beating the drop disappeared with a 2-1 defeat at West Ham.
Newcastle and Boro’s misery ensured huge relief for both Sunderland and Hull. They also lost their final matches but managed to cling on to their top-flight status thanks to the failure of their rivals to snatch the lifeline on offer to them.
Hull’s 1-0 defeat by a Manchester United side missing all their big names ahead of this week’s Champions League final meant that a draw would have been enough for Newcastle to stay up.
But that never looked on the cards and Villa, who finish the season in sixth place, fully deserved the three points, although they were sealed in fortunate fashion by a Gareth Barry shot that was deflected past Steve Harper by Damien Duff.
Shearer said he would decide whether to continue as Newcastle boss following talks with club owner Mike Ashley next week before voicing his frustration over everything that has happened at St James’ Park this season.
“We haven’t been relegated because of what happened today. We have gone down because of has happened over 38 games,” the former England striker said. “Big changes need to be made at the club.”
Darron Gibson demonstrated the rich resources Sir Alex Ferguson has at his disposal with a stunning strike to give Manchester United their win at Hull and ensure the
champions finished the campaign with a four-point advantage over second-placed Liverpool.
Another youngster, Junior Stanislas, sealed West Ham’s win over Middlesbrough after Gary O’Neill had cancelled out Carlton Cole’s first-half strike. Boro boss Gareth Southgate has been assured his job is safe and he vowed to implement the lessons of this season in the fight to bounce straight back up.
“This last six months has been very hard but you have to go through these painful things to come out stronger and better,” he said. “Tonight we’ll grieve for what has happened but tomorrow we’ll come out fighting.”
Nicolas Anelka ensured he would finish the season as the Premier League’s top scorer with his 19th strike of the campaign in Chelsea’s 3-2 win at Sunderland. Kieron Richardson equalised six minutes later but Sunderland were left dependent on results elsewhere for their safety after Salomon Kalou and Ashley Cole extended the visitors’ lead. Kenwyne Jones claimed a late consolation effort for Sunderland, who learned after the match that manager Ricky Sbragia had decided to step down following talks with chairman Niall Quinn.
Everton secured 5th place with a 2-0 win at Fulham that was secured by a Leon Osman double. The defeat could have cost Fulham a place in Europe but Tottenham’s 3-1 loss at Liverpool meant that Roy Hodgson’s side remained in seventh place — the club’s highest Premier League finish — and will play in the Europa League next season.
Fernando Torres’s 50th goal for Liverpool and an Alan Hutton own goal put the Reds in control and although former Reds striker Robbie Keane marked his return to Anfield with a goal, Yossi Benayoun made sure of the points.
Arsenal finished a frustrating season on a high with a 4-1 win over Stoke, exacting revenge for a bruising defeat at the Britannia Stadium in December. The Gunners were 3-0 up inside 20 minutes thanks to a James Beattie own goal Robin van Persie penalty and an Abou Diaby header. Ricardo Fuller pulled one back from the spot but van Persie claimed his second before half-time and the rest of the match was reduced to a training exercise.
West Brom, who had already been relegated, finished bottom of the table after a goalless draw at Blackburn while Manchester City rounded off their campaign with a 1-0 win over Bolton that was sealed by Felipe Caicedo’s early strike. City finished the season in 10th place, one position above Wigan, for whom Colombian striker Hugo Rodallega delivered a 1-0 win over Portsmouth.