English Premiership

Spurs reach Europa League

2011-05-22 19:12
Roman Pavlyuchenko (File)

London - Birmingham City's two-year stay in the Premier League came to an end at White Hart Lane as Roman Pavlyuchenko scored twice in a 2-1 win for Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

Craig Gardner's equaliser looked to be enough to keep Alex McLeish's team safe until a dramatic finale when a Wolves' goal at home to Blackburn that would have sent Birmingham down on goal difference preceded a second from Pavlyuchenko that sealed the Blues' fate.

Harry Redknapp's Spurs' side qualified for European football with the win, but the focus will be on Birmingham's slump since ending their 48-year wait for a major trophy in February.

Spurs had first-hand experience of a post English League Cup hangover when they triumphed in the tournament in 2008, with Juande Ramos winning just three more league games before being sacked in the same year.

The difference with Birmingham's situation was that only two wins since Wembley left McLeish's men just above the relegation zone on goal difference heading into Sunday's final day of the season.

McLeish had also endured a difficult week, starting with goalkeeper Ben Foster having his professionalism questioned after allegedly celebrating into the early hours after collecting the club's player-of-the-year award.

Birmingham also had a host of injury problems.

Lee Bowyer, Martin Jiranek, Stuart Parnaby and Alexander Hleb were sidelined and David Bentley, on loan from Spurs, was ineligible against his parent club.

They were facing a Spurs team who still had something to play for as matching or bettering Liverpool's result at Aston Villa would seal a place in the Europa League next season.

Redknapp had Heurelho Gomes returning from a back injury but opted to stick with Carlo Cudicini in goal, while Rafael van der Vaart missed out with a calf complaint.

Foster was the busier of the two goalkeepers during the first half.

He saved twice from Sandro, firstly when the Brazil midfielder drilled towards the near post, before a dipping drive was tipping over the crossbar.

Peter Crouch, who had set up Sandro's first chance, also fired wide from the edge of the penalty area but was forced off before half-time with a head injury from a challenge with Roger Johnson.

Birmingham did not muster a shot on goal in the first 45 minutes and suffered nervous moments when Barry Ferguson was accused of handling in the penalty area, and when Younes Kaboul's drive flashed wide.

The opening goal came four minutes after the interval from a move that started with Danny Rose skipping past Sebastian Larsson on the left flank with a neat piece of skill.

Rose's pass ricocheted to Pavlyuchenko, who took a touch 25 yards from goal before curling his right-footed finish into the net for the Russia international's 13th goal of the season.

Jermain Defoe could have added another following an exciting run, but his shot was blocked by Curtis Davies.

Needing a goal to save their season, Birmingham started attacking and Johnson headed wide from a corner, while Keith Fahey volleyed over the bar.

McLeish made his move 16 minutes from time by bringing on Matt Derbyshire, a striker, in place of midfielder Larsson.

Gardner volleyed home after a corner was cleared to his path 25 yards from goal, sparking frenzied celebrations.

But Pavlyuchenko had the final say, smashing home from the edge of the area and in off the crossbar in the dying moments.

Read more on:    epl  |  roman pavlyuchenko


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