Leicester fail to capitalise
The final weekend of Premier League football was one where a number of teams needed to win and where the form book was largely thrown out of the window.
Leicester, who have spent more time in the top-four than any other side, missed out on the final day for the second season running.
They were handed a second chance as Chelsea fell to defeat against Aston Villa, but they squandered a 2-1 lead against Tottenham to lose 4-2 at home to Spurs.
Chelsea scraped in ahead of Leicester, while Liverpool eased to victory against Crystal Palace to finish third.
Leicester and West Ham make the Europa League, whilst Tottenham finished seventh to secure a place in the inaugural Conference League.
Leicester 2-4 Tottenham
With Chelsea losing to Aston Villa, Brendan Rodgers’ side had their destiny back in their own hands. But they faltered under the pressure for the second season running and fell to a 4-2 home defeat with Gareth Bale coming off the bench to score twice.
Leicester looked to be cruising after Jamie Vardy opened the scoring in the 18th minute from the penalty spot, following a foul by Toby Alderweireld on Vardy.
Harry Kane equalized four minutes before half-time with an instinctive volley. It was his 23rd Premier League goal of the season, and it gave him his third Golden Boot of his career, finishing one goal ahead of Mohamed Salah.
Vardy was fouled again in the penalty area, this time by Davinson Sanchez. He dispatched the spot-kick with great conviction to put Leicester back into the top-four.
With Chelsea behind, they just needed to win. But disaster struck for the Foxes when Kasper Schmeichel misjudged a corner and punched the ball into his own net.
As Leicester pushed for a winner, space opened up for the visitors and Kane laid the ball off for Gareth Bale to put Spurs ahead and dash Leicester’s Champions League hopes with three minutes remaining.
The Welshman, who’s future remains in doubt, then dribbled towards goal and finished coolly in stoppage time after his initial shot rebounded off the post.
What does it mean?
Brendan Rodgers said he was ‘proud’ of his side after they fell at the final hurdle once again. Leicester had spent more days in the top-four than any other side – 242 in total – and failed to finish there.
It has still been a season of progress and achievement, with the club winning the FA Cup, but there is some disappointment about missing out on the Champions League for the second successive season.
For Tottenham, finishing above Arsenal for the fifth successive season is no crumb of comfort after their lowest league finish since 2008/09.
Ryan Mason steadied the ship with four wins from six league games, but the future of talisman Harry Kane is in doubt and a new manager is still yet to be appointed.
Liverpool 2 Crystal Palace 0
Liverpool knew that victory would ensure a top-four finish and they ran out 2-0 winners to finish third.
Andros Townsend gave Liverpool an early scare when he raced clear only to shoot off target, but the home side took control from there, with Sadio Mane poking home from a corner to score the first of his two goals in the 36th minute.
Liverpool continued to dominate in the second half and it was Mane who wrapped up victory for the hosts with a deflected effort.
What does it mean?
At the end of April, Liverpool remained four points off fourth place with just five games to go but won each of those final five games to not only seal a place at Europe’s top table again but also pip Chelsea to third after their loss at Aston Villa.
Liverpool might not have won any trophies this year, but Jurgen Klopp will be relieved to finish in the top-four after a chaotic campaign that saw the Reds in eighth after losing six home games in a row at Anfield.
Palace will finish in 14th place after Roy Hodgson’s last game in charge and will now be on the hunt for a new manager.
Aston Villa 2 Chelsea 1
Chelsea managed to cling onto Champions League football by finishing in fourth place, despite losing 2-1 at Aston Villa.
Chelsea were once again dominant in possession but profligate and wasteful in attack. They had 23 shots to six and 72% of the ball.
Mason Mount blazed over as Chelsea took the game to the hosts, but it was Dean Smith’s side, in front of a raucous 10,000, who took the lead in the 43rd minute when Bertrand Traore’s mishit strike found the net after hitting the underside of the crossbar following a corner.
Goalkeeper Edouard Mendy collided with the post as he tried to prevent the goal, and had to be replaced at half-time.
Things went from bad to worse for Chelsea, as Villa were then awarded a 53rd minute penalty after former Chelsea player Traore was fouled by Jorginho. Anwar El Ghazi converted from 12 yards, to put Villa 2-0 up.
Ben Chilwell pulled one back, but Thomas Tuchel’s side lost their composure and had Cesar Azpilicueta sent off for an altercation with Jack Grealish.
What does it mean?
Chelsea were aided by old rivals Tottenham, who handed them a reprieve after beating Leicester;
The Blues finished fourth as a result and will go into the Champions League final without any concerns about playing in the competition next season.
Aston Villa finished the season on a high with 55 points and comfortable 11th place finish.
Featured image: Gareth Bale of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates after scoring his team’s fourth goal during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur at The King Power Stadium. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)