Sunderland’s great escape continues with win at United
Cardiff and Fulham both relegated after heavy defeats
Premier League round-up: Sunderland took a huge step towards cementing their top-flight status by beating Manchester United 1-0 to hand Ryan Giggs the first defeat of his reign as manager.
Sebastian Larsson took advantage of some slack marking to fire home Connor Wickham’s cross in the first half as Sunderland recorded their first win at Old Trafford since 1968.
What had been billed as a tough fixture turned out to be something of a stroll for the 1-0 winners.
Fabio Borini and Emanuele Giaccherini both struck the woodwork in the second half and Gus Poyet’s team looked comfortable in possession all afternoon.
The win condemned Cardiff and Fulham to relegation, while Sunderland are now big favourites to stay in the Premier League too.
Providing Norwich lose at Chelsea on Sunday, the Black Cats need only to take one point from their final two matches to survive.
And after recent wins over Chelsea, Cardiff and now United, few would back against the Wearsiders to do so.
This was the afternoon that the feel-good bubble surrounding Giggs well and truly burst.
The high-tempo, counter-attacking football he demanded from his players was absent all day.
United were flat in midfield, Javier Hernandez went missing up front and even the return of Robin van Persie from the bench could not inspire the Red Devils to victory.
Many United fans wanted Giggs to be the club’s next manager, but the board may be wise to turn to the more experienced Louis van Gaal, who is set to be appointed as David Moyes’s successor next week.
United’s defeat also highlighted the need for reinforcements this summer, particularly in midfield, where Nani, Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick failed to impress.
The number of empty seats visible at the final whistle was remarkable. The small pocket of away supporters had every reason to remain and hail their team, who are almost safe just a few weeks after looking doomed.
Loic Remy scored his 14th goal of the season to help end Newcastle’s six-game Premier League losing streak and send Cardiff down after a 3-0 win for the home side at St James’ Park.
On a day when several hundred home fans carried out their threat to walk out before the end of the game after losing patience with owner Mike Ashley and manager Alan Pardew, Shola Ameobi’s first-half header set his side on the road to a lacklustre victory.
The visitors rallied and looked like they might get something out of the game, but late strikes from Remy and substitute Steven Taylor ensured that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men will be playing in the Football League once again next season.
Fulham bade farewell to the top flight with a whimper as a crushing 4-1 loss at the Stoke combined with results elsewhere consigned the Cottagers to relegation to the Championship.
Goals from Peter Odemwingie, Marko Arnautovic, Oussama Assaidi and Jonathan Walters sealed the visitors’ fate after a dismal performance in which a late consolation from Kieran Richardson was rendered irrelevant.
Fulham go down for the first time since they plunged into the league’s bottom division in 1994 and Felix Magath’s first in his lengthy career with nine different clubs.
The Cottagers had travelled up the M6 hoping for a miracle but might have guessed it would not be their day when Hugo Rodallega – whose winners against Norwich and Aston Villa had given them hope – was ruled out due to illness.
But Magath’s men had no excuses for a simply abject performance, particularly in the first half, from which they were highly fortunate to escape with just a single goal deficit.
Andreas Weimann scored a priceless brace against Hull to all but guarantee Aston Villa’s place for another season with a 3-1 win.
Weimann, without a goal in 12 matches dating back to January, delivered just when his side needed it most with a pair of headers in the four minutes before half-time at Villa Park.
The Austrian’s intervention, which took his season’s tally to just six, turned a nervy 1-1 scoreline into a 3-1 lead which the hosts preserved to claim a first win in seven outings.
Ashley Westwood had put Villa ahead after just 58 seconds but they surrendered the lead when Jordan Bowery turned Liam Rosenior’s low cross into his own goal.
Victory takes Paul Lambert’s side to 38 points and they can only be dragged down if Norwich win both their remaining matches as well as effecting a huge swing in goal difference.
With the Canaries away to Chelsea on Sunday and hosting Arsenal next weekend, Villa fans can safely shelve their relegation fears.
Hull, a point further back with 37, are also unlikely to be hauled in by Norwich but their three-game winless run bodes ill for their FA Cup final appearance against the Gunners on May 17th.
England striker Rickie Lambert grabbed a dramatic late winner for Southampton after an otherwise uninspiring encounter against Swansea.
Lambert pounced in the third minute of stoppage time to secure an unlikely 1-0 victory.
Swansea skipper Ashley Williams’s attempted clearance looped high over home goalkeeper Michel Vorm, and the ball went in off substitute Lambert’s back to give Southampton all three points.
It looked as though the teams would play out an uninspiring 0-0 draw in the Liberty Stadium sunshine after 90 minutes that had end-of-season stamped all over it.
Both teams lacked the finishing power to threaten collecting a victory, and it proved a hugely-disappointing Premier League clash.