Wolves prevented their EPL relegation today in a day of days for the Barclays Premier League. The final day was a true depiction of what the Premier League has been for the whole season. Twists and turns all around, some tight matches along with some matches with goals flowing freely. It has been a very competitive season and the competition went down to the final day of the season. With as many as five teams fighting for survival on the last day, Wolverhampton Wanderers just escaped on the thinnest line possible. So did their opponents for the day, Blackburn who gave one of the most convincing performances of their season when they won 3-2 at Wolves. Wolves, despite losing at home, still survive, finishing just one point above the drop zone because of Birmingham’s defeat to Tottenham, and Blackpool’s loss at Old Trafford.
The match was a game of two halves. The first half belonged to Blackburn. Both teams started with some hesitancy, and the visitors were the first to settle down. An early freekick by Emerton was easily dealt with. On the other end, a brilliant Jamie O’Hara play and pass to Ward was saved by Blackburn keeper Robinson. A couple of more chances fell to both teams, with Samba almost scoring an own goal, when he headed the ball back towards his goal when the cross came in from Stephen Hunt. Then the first goal came. At the 23rd minute mark, the visitors went in front when Jason Roberts, ex-Wolves player, struck home a deflected shot, after a good cross by veteran Michel Salgado. The visitors doubled their lead after 15 minutes, when a beautiful volley by Brett Emerton went between the Wolves defenders into the goal. Craddock had cleared the ball out of the box from a good cross, but the ball went straight to Emerton who unleashed a great volley from 25 yards out. A great goal, which could have been the goal of the match, if it was not for Steve Hunt’s strike at the 83rd minute. Anyway, Blackburn were relishing their football , and just before the halfway mark, the Canadian striker Hoilett made it 3-0 with a good low shot, thus finishing of a stunning display by the Indian comapny Venky-owned club, probably their best this season.
At the halfway mark, Wolves were down in the relegation zone, along with Wigan( who eventually didn’t get relegated), with Blackpool holding United to a draw at half time. Wolves needed a miracle. They either had to score 4 goals, a near impossible task, or get some goals to up their goal difference and hope that either 2 of Birmingham, Blackpool and Wigan lose or draw. And that is what happened. Through a great header by Hugo Rodellega, Wigan won at Stoke, a very tough task, as Stoke kadn’t lost at the Brittania Stadium in 2011. A great victory for Wigan, who maintain their top-flight status, a result many did not expect. But, more importantly for Wolves, Birmingham continued their miserable form from last weekend and lost 2-1 at The White Hart Lane and Blackpool gave away a one goal lead to lose 4-2 against the newly crowned champions.
But, it was not until Wolves vs Birmingham was in extra time they realised that their goals didn’t matter as Birmingham had lost. The Spurs-Birmingham match stood at one goal apiece, until Roman Pavlyuchenko made it 2-1 in stoppage time. Before that goal, it was all about goal difference, as both Birmingham and Wolves were on 40 points then. But, an assist by Stephen Hunt to give Jamie O’Hara the chance to get one goal back, and he did exactly that. Hunt took the freekick short, and passed it to O’Hara whose shot from 20 yards out found the back of the net at the 73rd minute. Wolves needed one more goal to go ahead of Birmingham on goal difference, and they got it through the provider of the their previous goal. Hunt received the ball on the right wing,, and curled in a brilliant goal past the stretching Robinson into the net three minutes before time. Wolves had survived unless Birmingham could beat Tottenham. Instead, through a late goal, Spurs won, and Birmingham were relegated on 39 points, with Wolves one ahead of them. The goal difference did not matter anymore. Quite a dramatic finish to a dramatic season. Wolves had survived by the skin of their teeth.
Wolves peaked at the right time, and that is what has been the reason for their survival. Their last two matches before this match ended in great wins for them ( both 3-1 ) against Sunderland and West Brom. Unlike them, the form of the other 5 teams in the relegation zone has been patchy, and Wolves went into this match with great confidence. However, their early wins were enough to keep them in the Premier League. Also significant in their campaign has been their results against the top clubs, be it defeating Champions Manchester United 2-1 at home, or second-place finishers Chelsea 1-0 at home, or beating Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield, or Manchester City at home 2-1. These are the results which have mattered for them. 12 points in matches, where nothing at all was expected from them, that shows the character of Mick McCarthy’s team. A job well done. Blackburn had been highly inconsistent this season, and have escaped the drop. Their performance in this match was deserving of the top flight status. But, both these teams need to be better prepared, and more consistent next season.
Having said that, all in all, this was a great season. A highly competitive one, with many twists and turns. Manchester United finished as deserving Champions, with Chelsea and Man City along with them directly qualifying for the group stages of the Champions League. Arsenal will have to play a qualifying round for playing in the CL, and Tottenham qualify for the Europa League. West Ham, Blackpool and Carling Cup Winners, Birmingham go down to the Championship. It has been an intense season. Hoping for the next season to be even more competitive and intense.