Newcastle United 0 Arsenal 1
Arsenal Koscielny 52’
Man of the match Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)
NEWCASTLE // Arsene Wenger is confident Arsenal will make a better showing during next season’s title race after securing a 16th consecutive crack at the Champions League.
The London club clinched fourth place in the Premier League and a qualifying berth in the European competition with a hard-fought 1-0 victory Sunday at Newcastle United to end derby rivals Tottenham Hotspur’s hopes of catching them on the final day of the season.
Wenger was thrilled with a high-octane run-in which allowed his side to eventually overtake Spurs, and is confident that the confidence gleaned will serve them well once again next season.
He said: “Since February 1, we have taken more points than everybody else in the league, and I don’t believe that’s just down to coincidence, but just to the fact that the group has grown, this team has grown through the season.
“We lacked belief for long periods because we couldn’t win a big game, but the Bayern [Munich] game [a 2-0 away win in the Champions League] changed our season away from home.
“In the last three months, I believe we have been remarkably consistent. We have won every away game, so it is a good springboard for next season, to transfer that belief into the start of next season.
“That means we need to have stability and strengthen our group if possible, because there are many clubs out there with a lot of money, so the competition is very hard and there is not as much talent as money today in football.”
However, Wenger warned his players that the job is not yet complete, with a potentially tricky qualifier to come before they can install themselves alongside the continent’s elite.
He said: “It means to us to be able to play with the top teams in Europe – that’s what you want.
“It means as well that it’s easier to bring in players when you have a chance to be in the Champions League – let’s not forget, we are not in yet, we have to qualify and that is always a very tricky round for us.
“But at least we have a chance.”
Victory was secured seven minutes after the break when defender Laurent Koscielny volleyed home from close range after striker Lukas Podolski had headed down Theo Walcott’s free kick.
That Newcastle had to settle for a 16th-placed finish with 41 points – 24 fewer than last year when they ended the campaign in fifth – was a major disappointment, with the demands of a Europa League campaign seemingly taking a toll.
“We are not going to be foolish enough to think that we don’t have a couple of issues to sort out in the team – not major issues, but certainly one or two players to add to offer us a different look,” Manager Alan Pardew said:.
Cheslea secure third place and Benitez exits quietly
Chelsea 2 Everton 1
Chelsea Mata 07’, Torres 76’
Everton Naismith 14’
Man of the match Juan Mata (Chelsea)
LONDON // Rafael Benitez led Chelsea to third place in the Premier League with a 2-1 victory over Everton before deciding not to bid farewell to his fiercest critics, the home supporters at Stamford Bridge.
After Fernando Torres's first Premier League goal of 2013 sealed a 2-1 win over Everton, captain John Terry, midfielder Frank Lampard and defender Paulo Ferreira addressed the crowd, whose celebrations included a chorus for Jose Mourinho.
None of the trio mentioned Benitez, a mid-season replacement who opted to leave the lap of appreciation for the players, after succeeding in his mission to lead Chelsea to a Champions League return and silverware, the Europa League final win.
"It's for the families and the players," said Benitez, who was praised by the players following the defeat of Benfica in Amsterdam on Wednesday. "I received hundreds of messages, more than 200 messages on the website, from Chelsea fans saying thank you very much.
"For me, that is enough, and also the players telling me things privately. The majority of [the supporters] were very positive in the end. That is good. We couldn't change the opinion of some of them. We tried to do our best until the end."
The defeat of Everton was Chelsea's 28th win in 48 games of Benitez's seven-month reign, during which the Spaniard had to endure vitriol from certain fans.
With champions Manchester United and Manchester City under new management next term, Benitez is confident Chelsea can challenge for the title under his successor, whether it is Mourinho or not. "This team will be challenging for the title next year," Benitez added.
Liverpool 1 QPR 0
Liverpool Coutinho 23’
Philippe Coutinho was Liverpool’s match-winner but Jamie Carragher was the star of the show as he brought a career spanning 16 years 131 days to an end– the seventh-longest in club history.
Southampton 1 Stoke City 1
Southampton Lambert 57’
Stoke Crouch 47’
Peter Crouch headed Stoke ahead within two minutes of the second half, but Rickie Lambert netted the 15th goal of his debut Premier League season to earn Southampton a point.
Swansea 0 Fulham 3
Fulham Kacaniklic 22’, Berbatov 77’, Emanuelson 90+3’
Fulham rounded off their campaign with a first win in eight games as Swansea’s memorable campaign concluded with a whimper.
West Ham United 4 Reading 2
West Ham Nolan 23’, 79’, 84’, Vaz Te 34
Reading McCleary 53’, Le Fondre 55’
Captain Kevin Nolan scored a hat-trick as West Ham signed off by putting four past relegated Reading at Upton Park.
Wigan Athletic 2 Reading 2
Wigan Boyce 21’, Baker (og) 45+3’
Villa Bent 5’, Vlaar 61’
Wigan’s eight seasons in the Premier League came to an end with an entertaining draw against Aston Villa. At 2-2, Wigan thought they had an injury-time winner but Roman Golobart’s chip landed on top of the net.
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