As it happened: the battle for the final Champions League spot

Updated: May 13, 2012

Arsenal won the battle for third place in the Premier League, holding off competition from Tottenham and Newcastle for the final guaranteed Champions League place next season.

It is the 17th successive season that Arsenal have qualified for Europe’s premier club competition, but they were made to sweat all the way for it.  They also enjoyed more than a slice of luck as West Brom goalkeeper made bad errors for two of Arsenal’s goals as Arsenal did enough to win 3-2 at the Hawthorns.

Spurs beat Fulham 2-0 at White Hart Lane while Newcastle lost 3-1 to Everton meaning Spurs finish fourth and the Toon Army finish fifth.

Former Arsenal star Emmanuel Adebayor struck first on the final day, putting Spurs 1-0 ahead in the second minute, playing a delightful one-two with Luka Modric before slotting past Mark Schwarzer.  As it stood, Spurs would finish in third place, Arsenal fourth, Newcastle fifth.

Arsenal were 1-0 up on four minutes.  The goal came from a terrible error by stand in goalkeeper Martin Fulop.  A through ball from Benayoun should have been collected by the custodian, but he spilled it and the Israeli has the simple task of netting.  As it stood; Arsenal would now finish third, Spurs fourth and Newcastle fifth.

Republic of Ireland international Shane Long then equalized for the Baggies in what was Roy Hodgson’s last match before taking over as England manager.  James Morisson broke through the midfield, before playing in Long.  Although the Tipperary man was at least two yards offside, there was no flag from the linesman and the striker finished to the net with aplomb past Szczeny, who was very slow off his line.  There would be a lot of controversy if the situation remains like this as WBA’s second goal should never have stood.  As it stands; Spurs are third, Arsenal fourth and Newcastle fifth.

Amazingly, the home side go 2-1 up four minutes later as Morisson is again the creator.  This time he crosses for Graham Dorrans, who cracks a superb volley into the back of the Arsenal net.

Two goals in the next 12 minutes from Steven Piennar and Nikolai Jelavic put Everton 2-0 ahead against Newcastle at Goodison and the Toon Army appeared to have lost their battle for a top four finish and a (possible) Champions League berth.

Andre Santos meanwhile put the Gunners right back in the hunt for third.  Alex Song takes advantage of the Baggies’ defensive dallying at the back.  He fed Santos, who raced through a stationary back four before smashing his effort in off the goalkeeper’s hand.  The score is 2-2 after less than half an hours’ play.  Spurs are still beating Fulham and still have the advantage in terms of the race for third place but another goal for the Gunners will change everything.

Arsenal find that goal 10 minutes into the second half thanks to yet another error from home goalkeeper Martin Fulop who seems determined to ruin the leaving party for manager Roy Hodgson!  The Hungarian comes for a corner which should have been a routine take but instead he chose to punch the ball.  Comically, it went behind him and Koscielny was on hand to bundle the ball home from four yards out.

Jermain Defoe scored a second goal for Tottenham as they sealed a 2-0 win over Fulham, but it was all academic as West Brom couldn’t force an equalizer against Arsenal.  Newcastle ended up losing 3-1 to Everton, but even a win for the Toon at Goodison would have seen them finish fifth as the other results went against them.  It has been an amazing season for Alan Pardew’s men though and he deservedly won the “Manager of the Year” award.

Arsenal then finish the season in third place and have secured an outstanding 17th consecutive place in the Champions League.  Tottenham meanwhile will have to wait for next Saturday’s Champions League final to see what the future holds for them.  Harry Redknapp will likely be wearing Bayern Munich’s red on the night at the Allianz Arena (he is attending the match) as only a win for the German club over Chelsea will see Spurs qualify for the Champions League next season.

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