The last day of the English Premier League always seems to
provide high drama – occasionally in a battle for the title but most often
through relegation dogfights.

The drama in this year’s finale, though (played overnight, local time), was the
battle for fourth place – not as meaningless as it sounds because it secures a
spot in next year’s Champions League qualifiers. Tottenham started the day in
fourth, needing only to win at West Ham to secure a Champions League spot for
the first time in their history. Its fierce rival Arsenal (think
Carlton-Collingwood) could usurp Tottenham if it achieved a better result against Wigan than Spurs did against West
Ham.

To add to this already heady mix, this was to be Arsenal’s last ever game at
Highbury, the ground it has called home for more than 90 years.

The day itself was dramatic from start to finish. It started horribly for Spurs
when eight of their starting 11 came down with a bout of suspected food
poisoning so severe that the club tried to have their game postponed so their
players could recover.

Then, just a few minutes into the games (all the final day games are played at
the same time), Arsenal scored against Wigan and West Ham scored against
Spurs. Gunners in, Spurs out. A few minutes later, underdogs Wigan levelled. Gunners still in
fourth.

Ten minutes before half-time, Wigan sensationally took the lead
at Highbury. Spurs back in fourth. Two minutes later, Jermaine Defoe scored a
cracker to equalise, but within two minutes Arsenal equalised in its match. At half-time, as everyone paused for breath, both games were all-square.

It was more of the same in the second half. A West Ham penalty saved to keep
Spurs alive. The incomparable Thierry Henry scores for Arsenal, to take the
Gunners into fourth, then again (for his hat trick) after a Wigan player concedes a penalty and
is sent off. Then, finally, a West Ham second to kill off the last of
Tottenham’s hopes.

For Arsenal, the 4-2 win was the perfect way to say goodbye to its much loved
Highbury home. For Tottenham, which has been in the top four since December, it
was a day that left them feeling sick in the stomach in more ways than one.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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