Man City, Arsenal the big winners in dramatic finale

Tuesday, 17 May 2016 00:04 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

REUTERS: Manchester City secured fourth place and Arsenal overhauled their arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur to come second on a dramatic final day of the Premier League season when a bomb scare rocked Old Trafford on Sunday.

After Manchester United’s game against Bournemouth was abandoned due to a security alert, Manchester City drew 1-1 at Swansea City, Arsenal crushed Aston Villa 4-0 and Spurs capitulated 5-1 at 10-man Newcastle United to blow their chance of finishing above their neighbours for the first time since 1995.

DFT-27-04Swansea's Leroy Fer in action with Manchester City's Eliaquim Mangala - Reuters 

“First of all I would like to apologise to our fans,” Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said.

“I think they don’t deserve all that happened today on the pitch and I apologise.”

Champions Leicester City drew 1-1 at Chelsea to end the campaign 10 points ahead of the chasing pack, another staggering achievement in a remarkable season for Claudio Ranieri’s team.

Manchester City needed a point to make sure of claiming the final Champions League qualifying spot but their game at Swansea started in a strange atmosphere caused by the events at Old Trafford.

Two stands were evacuated 20 minutes ahead of kickoff and the game was abandoned shortly before the scheduled 1400 GMT start. A controlled explosion was later carried out on a suspect package, described by police as “an incredibly lifelike explosive device”.

Manchester City made the perfect start when Kelechi Iheanacho fired them ahead after five minutes.

Swansea equalised on the stroke of halftime through Andre Ayew’s deflected free kick and the visitors endured a few nervy moments in Manuel Pellegrini’s last match in charge before celebrating the point they needed.

“Well into this season we were well in the title race, but we let ourselves down, we will take positives of a trophy and semi-final of the Champions League, which was history for our club,” City goalkeeper Joe Hart said.

“I have enjoyed our time under Manuel, it was important we finished off a good three years working with him.”

Spurs, Leicester’s closest challengers in the last few weeks, endured a dismal afternoon at relegated Newcastle.

Georginio Wijnaldum and Aleksandar Mitrovic put the hosts 2-0 up at halftime before Erik Lamela pulled one back.

Mitrovic was shown a straight red card for a dangerous foul but Wijnaldum scored his second from the penalty spot and Rolando Aarons and Daryl Janmaat completed the scoring at a disbelieving St James’ Park.

Arsenal took an early lead against relegated Villa through Olivier Giroud and the French striker added two late goals to complete his hat-trick before Mark Bunn’s stoppage-time own goal completed the rout.

Arsene Wenger’s side finished in the top two for the first time since 2005 after a difficult campaign in which the French manager has been heavily criticised.

“We kept our togetherness and that is part of the DNA of this club,” said Wenger, who led his team into the Champions League for the 19th consecutive season.

“We kept fighting until the end. Many big teams finished outside the top four this year.”

Cesc Fabregas’s second-half penalty for Chelsea looked set to condemn Leicester to only their fourth defeat of the season but Danny Drinkwater rescued a point for the champions with a stunning long-distance strike.

“It was a warm welcome for me, it was fantastic at the beginning and the end,” Ranieri said on his return to his former club.

“A draw is OK because we have only lost three times this season and that is an amazing achievement.”

Southampton climbed to fifth with a 4-1 victory over FA Cup finalists Crystal Palace and West Ham United’s hopes of a top-six finish ended following a 2-1 loss at Stoke City.

Pochettino apologises to Spurs fans after last-day collapse

REUTERS: An invigorating season ended with a whimper for Tottenham Hotspur as a 5-1 thrashing at relegated Newcastle United cost them second place in the Premier League and forced manager Mauricio Pochettino to apologise to fans.

Tottenham, for so long champions Leicester’s closest pursuers, only needed a point from their last game to seal runners-up spot, but collapsed to their worst defeat of the season against a side reduced to 10 men after the break.

While finishing third and sealing a place in the Champions League group stage next season would have been beyond the club’s expectations at the start of the campaign, there was a sense of deflation as they finished a point below bitter north London rivals Arsenal.

Having seen their chance of a first title since 1961 evaporate when they drew 2-2 at Chelsea on May 2, finishing above Arsenal for the DFT-27-05first time since 1995 would have given the fans plenty to smile about during the summer break.

But it was not to be as Tottenham’s last four matches ended with two draws and two defeats.

“First of all I would like to apologise to our fans,” Pochettino, who signed a new contract extension in the week, said. “I think they don’t deserve all that happened today on the pitch and I apologise.

“It was a shame and difficult to understand. In the last couple of weeks when you do not play with 100 percent it is impossible to win games and after Chelsea something happened.

“We had the possibility to stay second. It is the worst day as a manager and I feel very disappointed.”

Tottenham were trailing 2-0 at halftime to goals by Georginio Wijnaldum and Aleksandar Mitrovic but reduced the deficit through Erik Lamela after the break.

Mitrovic was sent off after 67 minutes for a bad foul on Kyle Walker but just when Tottenham fans thought their team had an escape route, they capitulated after Wijnaldum converted a dubioulsy-awarded spot kick.

Tottenham will still take many positives from the campaign in which Harry Kane finished as the Premier League’s leading scorer with 25 goals and Dele Alli emerged as a genuine star.

But the final day will leave a sour taste.

“We need to be sure that never happens again and we need to improve our mentality,” Pochettino said. “We were on holiday and that is the reality.”