The longest, strangest Premier League season ever contested nevertheless came to a familiar dramatic close on Sunday, almost a year after the coronavirus-cursed 2019-20 campaign — which was interrupted for more than three months in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — began.
Manchester United and Chelsea clinched the final two spots in next season’s UEFA Champions League, joining runaway Prem winner Liverpool and runner-up Manchester City. Leicester’s failure to beat United Sunday forced the Foxes to settle for a fifth-place finish and the Europa League berth that comes with it.
On the other end of the 20-team table, Aston Villa, which looked like a relegation shoo-in just a few weeks ago, completed its great escape by going undefeated over its final four games. In the process, they condemned Bournemouth and Watford to the drop along with already doomed Norwich City.
Here are the most consequential score lines from Decision Day, and what those results mean for the clubs involved.
Chelsea 2, Wolverhampton 0
The Blues needed only a draw at home to Wolves to ensure a top-four finish but they made no mistake in a convincing victory. Chelsea never looked back after getting two quick goals, from Olivier Giroud and Mason Mount, just before halftime.
Mount’s free kick to open the scoring was a beauty:
Manchester United 2, Leicester City 0
In Sunday’s marquee match, any hope of a Foxes win went out the window when Jonny Evans conceded a second-half penalty by hacking down Anthony Martial inside the box. Bruno Fernandes stood up and converted from the spot, sending Kasper Schmeichel diving the wrong way:
Evans, who was shown a yellow card on the play, was sent off before Schmeichel gifted the Red Devils a second in stoppage time.
West Ham 1, Aston Villa 1
Already assured a place in the top flight next season, the 15th-place Hammers didn’t have a lot of incentive to crush the dreams of a desperate foe, and it showed: West Ham didn’t manage a single shot against the visitors until after homegrown star Jack Grealish, in perhaps his final game with the club, gave Villa what looked like a safety-sealing strike late.
And while it went into the net, again leveling the score and making for a nervy final few minutes for fans of Villa and Bournemouth alike, the Birmingham club — which had been promoted back the the Prem last season — held on to stay up by the skin of its teeth.
Arsenal 3, Watford 2
Watford got off to the worst possible start in North London, falling into an early hole on goals by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Kieran Tierney before Aubameyang gave the Gunners a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 with this spectacular bicycle kick:
Just when they looked dead and buried, though, Watford mounted a furious second-half comeback to pull within one. But the early grave that they dug for themselves at the Emirates did prove insurmountable in the end, with Watford officially relegated to the second tier.
Bournemouth 3, Everton 1
After last week’s heart-wrenching 2-0 loss to Southampton, Bournemouth came into Decision Day knowing they needed to both beat the Toffees at Goodison Park and have both Aston Villa and Watford lose to stay in the Premier League.
And the Cherries did their part on Sunday, taking an early lead through Josh King and pulling ahead for good on Dominic Solanke’s powerful header off Diego Rico’s cross after Everton had equalized in the second half:
Eddie Howe’s side would add another one later on to walk out with a 3-1 win. Unfortunately for them, while Watford was put to the sword against Arsenal, Villa did juuust enough to stay above water, ending Bournemouth’s five-season stay in the Prem.
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