• Wednesday, 27 September 2023

Leicester's fairy tale is over as Everton stays in Premier League

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Leicester, May 30: Seven years after the most improbable Premier League title triumph of all, Leicester was relegated from English soccer's top division on Sunday while Everton pulled off another last-day escape to extend its 69-year stay.

Leeds was also consigned to the drop with Leicester and already-relegated Southampton as the league season reached its conclusion.

Everton's 1-0 win over Bournemouth meant Leicester's 2-1 victory against West Ham was ultimately meaningless. Leeds' miserable campaign ended in a 4-1 loss at home against Tottenham.

Leicester's demise stands out because of the dramatic nature of its fall after experiencing the most spectacular period in its history in recent years.

By winning the title as a 5,000-1 shot in 2016, it provided the Premier League with its greatest fairy tale - being crowned champion two years after being promoted from the second tier. In 2021 it was celebrating victory against Chelsea in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium, a period that also saw it achieve back-to-back fifth-place finishes.

Relegation was not seen as a realistic threat this season — even after a summer in which Leicester failed to make major moves in the transfer market.

In the Premier League, however, fairy tales do not guarantee happily-ever-after endings and Leicester now faces an uncertain future with interim manager Dean Smith out of contract and a host of its star players likely to leave in the summer. "The Premier League is where everybody wants to be playing," Smith said afterward. "It feels raw now, it hurts and everybody will be devastated. But with the infrastructure it's got it will bounce back."

While it was a day of anguish for Leicester, Everton was celebrating once again as the league's great survivor.

Having been in the top division since 1954, it pulled off another great escape, having avoided relegation on the final day of the season in both 1994 and 1998 previously. 

The Merseyside club, which only narrowly avoided the drop last year, took it to the wire yet again this season.

Abdoulaye Doucouré smashed home a 57th-minute goal to earn the win that sparked jubilant scenes at Goodison.

Everton's fate was always in its own hands, starting the day in 17th place, two points above Leicester and Leeds.

It is a triumph for manager Sean Dyche, who was hired in January and tasked with the job of turning the club's season around.

United finish third

Two cup finals and now a third-place finish in the Premier League. For Erik ten Hag, it has been a strong first season at Manchester United.

United rallied to beat Fulham 2-1 thanks to goals from Jadon Sancho and Bruno Fernandes to finish above Newcastle in third place. Newcastle could only draw 1-1 at Chelsea.

A run of four straight wins to end the league campaign sets up United for its shot at Manchester City in the FA Cup final on Saturday. United has already won the English League Cup.

Aston Villa will play in Europe next season for the first time in 13 years after beating Brighton 2-1 to finish in seventh place.Villa's win meant Tottenham finished in eighth place and out of the European positions.

Golden Boot

Manchester City striker Erling Haaland finished his first season in English soccer with the Golden Boot award as the Premier League's top scorer.

He didn't get to add to his 36 league goals this season, though, with the Norway international not getting off the bench in City's 1-0 loss at Brentford, which completed the home-and-away double over the champions.

Harry Kane was second in the scoring charts on 30 goals.

Roberto Firmino finished his eight-year Liverpool career with two goals in a wild 4-4 draw with Southampton. A slew of other scorers on Sunday might yet have played their last games for the clubs, too.

Like Granit Xhaka, who scored two of second-place Arsenal's goals in its 5-0 thrashing of Wolverhampton. Xhaka has been linked with a move back to Germany. Kane refused to comment on his future at Tottenham after scoring two of the team's goals against Leeds.

"I have focused on this season and helping the team as much as possible," Kane said. 

James Ward-Prowse led Southampton's fightback from 2-0 down against Liverpool in what is likely his final game for a club where he came through the academy. (AP)

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