London — Aston Villa will play Premier League football next season after a draw at West Ham was enough to ensure they escaped relegation on the final day of the league campaign yesterday.
Hometown hero and captain Jack Grealish looked to have sealed a win for Villa with a powerful strike in the 84th minute, but Andriy Yarmolenko’s deflected leveller soon after made it a nervy finale for the visitors.
They hung on though and the point, coupled with a defeat for Watford at Arsenal, ensured Villa’s survival and consigned the Hornets to the Championship next season along with Bournemouth, whose win at Everton was not enough.
It caps an impressive end to the season for Dean Smith’s side, who were seven points from safety two weeks ago, but then put together their first four-game unbeaten run of 2019-20 to survive.
It was a game of few chances at the London Stadium, although the in-form Michail Antonio would have made Villa’s afternoon a lot more tense had he not blazed a shot wide with just the keeper to beat in the first half.
West Ham secured their own Premier League place for 2020-21 with a draw at Manchester United on Wednesday.
Warriors star man Marvellous Nakamba (pictured) was introduced with 15 minutes remaining in the match for his 28th league appearance in his debut season for Villa after joining at the start of the term from Club Brugge.
Meanwhile, Chelsea and Manchester United sealed qualification for next season’s Champions League with a comfortable victories over Wolves and Leicester City, respectively.
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea needed a point from the potentially nervy encounter at Stamford Bridge in order to clinch a top-four place, but they stylishly grabbed all three.
Mason Mount’s delightful 25-yard curling free-kick and Olivier Giroud’s effort from close range were just 144 seconds apart on the stroke of half-time and they settled the contest.
The loss means Wolves end the season in seventh place, behind Tottenham on goal difference, after Jose Mourinho’s side drew 1-1 at Crystal Palace.
However, Nuno Espirito Santo’s men face a nervous wait as their league position could still be enough for a Europa League place next season, should the Blues beat Arsenal in the FA Cup final next month.
Chelsea finished on the same points as Manchester United, who beat Leicester 2-0, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side finish third on goal difference.
United needed a point from this decisive final-day meeting to confirm a place in the top four — and break the hearts of the Foxes, who were in a Champions League spot for so much of the season.
Leicester needed victory once Chelsea took command at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers, but their dreams were dashed as Bruno Fernandes scored a 71st-minute penalty after Anthony Martial tumbled under challenge from Wes Morgan and Jonny Evans.
Both sides had their chances, with Leicester City keeper Kasper Schmeichel saving well from Marcus Rashford in the first half and Jamie Vardy seeing a header glance off the frame of the goal after the break.
Leicester pressed could not break Manchester United down and their misery was compounded when Evans was sent off against his former club for a wild, late lunge on Scott McTominay.
Manchester United confirmed the formalities seconds from time when substitute Jesse Lingard robbed Schmeichel and rolled the ball into an empty net.
It is a result that fulfils the usual minimum requirement of Champions League qualification for Manchester United.
But while Leicester City’s fifth-placed finish is highly creditable and earns a place in the Europa League, this will undoubtedly be a huge disappointment and anti-climax after being in a position to reach the Champions League for so long.
English Premier League final day results
Arsenal 3-2 Watford, Burnley 1-2 Brighton, Chelsea 2-0 Wolves, Crystal Palace 1-1 Tottenham, Everton 1-3 Bournemouth, Leicester 0-2 Manchester United, Manchester City 5-0 Norwich, Newcastle 1-3 Liverpool, Southampton 3-1 Sheffield United, West Ham 1-1 Aston Villa
— BBC Sport
Do you have a coronavirus story? You can email us on: firstname.lastname@example.org