x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Manchester City clinch automatic Champions League place

Manchester City sealed third place and automatic entry into the Champions League at the expense of Arsenal after winning 2-0 at Bolton.

Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager, saw his side cement third place in the Premier League table, then outlined his plans for an assault on the Champions League.

Mancini said after the 2-0 win over the 10-man Bolton Wanderers that he wants some players with experience of performing in Europe’s elite club competition.

And he is anxious to get in sufficient numbers after seeing Tottenham struggle to deal with the domestic campaign and the Champions League. City will gain automatic entry to the Champions League by finishing ahead of Arsenal and level with Chelsea.

“It is a strange competition,” Mancini said. “We are a good team but maybe we need other players who have played in it and have experience.

“Every game is a hard game and if you don’t have many players you can change in the Champions League and Premier League it would be a really hard season.

“Tottenham this year put all their strength into the Champions League and lost many points in the Premier League. For this we need good players, many players for these competitions. In football if you don’t spend you don’t win.”

Goals from Joleon Lescott and the substitute Edin Dzeko took City to victory against a Bolton side who had Daniel Sturridge sent off late in the game.

Lescott made the breakthrough in the 43rd minute when he sent a looping header over Jussi Jaaskelainen following a corner from Adam Johnson. That took the wind out of Bolton’s sails and Dzeko added a second in the 62nd minute, shortly after stepping off the bench, when he capitalised on Gary Cahill’s mistake.

The result completed a superb season for Mancini, the Italian who steered the club to success in the FA Cup – their first trophy in 35 years.

“I am delighted,” Mancini said. “We deserved to get third position, maybe second also. I am happy for the players because it is credit to them. They have had a fantastic season. Many congratulations to all the players.

“It was very important for us to win the FA Cup because it was the first trophy for many years. Now we know if we work hard and if we always believe in ourselves we can beat any team. But we need to improve. That is important.

“By finishing third it means we can stay at home for our holidays and we can relax 100 per cent. We can work in pre-season calmly and without problems. Then we can think about the Charity Shield.”

Owen Coyle, the Bolton manager, could not his disappointment after his side finished 14th; they were fourth at the end of November. After a fifth successive defeat, he said: “I felt we were terrific in the first half. We were more than a match for them.

“It was a very lucky goal. Joleon Lescott turned away and the ball hit him on the back of the head. But that’s the margins in the league. The second half did not live up to the first half but I know we have players running on empty as we have not had strength in depth.”

Elsewhere, Arsenal’s disappointing finish to the season concluded with a 2-2 draw at 10-man Fulham.

Steve Sidwell opened the scoring for Fulham in the 26th minute after Bobby Zamora broke the offside trap, but Robin van Persie levelled three minutes later, finishing off a fine Arsenal move.

Zamora restored Fulham’s lead just before the hour mark, but the substitute Zoltan Gera saw red for a two-footed challenge in the 74th minute, moments after coming on, and the Gunners took advantage as Theo Walcott levelled a minute from time.

Tottenham’s win to relegate Birmingham City meant Liverpool could not qualify for the Europa League whatever happened but as it was they lost 1-0 at Aston Villa thanks to Stewart Downing’s 33rd-minute strike.

There was an end-of-season thriller at St James’ Park where Somen Tchoyi scored a hat-trick as West Brom came from three goals down to draw 3-3 against Newcastle.

Steven Taylor scored after 16 minutes, his third in three games, before Peter Lovenkrands and a Jonas Olsson own-goal two minutes into the second period made it 3-0.

But Tchoyi netted in the 62nd minute and 71st minutes, before completing his hat-trick moments from the end to salvage a point.

Everton secured a 1-0 win over Chelsea despite having a man sent off.

Seamus Coleman saw red after picking up a second booking in the 52nd minute after a challenge on Jon Obi Mikel which caused a mass fracas, but the 10 men responded as Jermaine Beckford scored a magnificent solo effort in the 74th minute.

Relegated West Ham bowed out in miserable fashion as they lost 3-0 to Sunderland at Upton Park.

Bolo Zenden scored after 17 minutes, before Stephane Sessegnon bagged a second six minutes after the break and Cristian Riveros finished off the scoring in stoppage time.