Football: No fairytale finale for Gerrard as Foxes beat the drop
Liverpool great Steven Gerrard was denied a fairytale finish to his Anfield career when Crystal Palace won 3-1 in his final home game on Saturday as Leicester completed one of the great escapes to preserve their Premier League status.
Gerrard, 34, will leave Liverpool for the LA Galaxy at the end of the season, with the midfielder having so far spent his entire professional career at his hometown club.
Palace wrecked the Liverpool captain’s dream of what would have been a first Premier League title with a 3-3 draw late last season and they upset the script again on Saturday.
Adam Lallana put the Reds ahead but Palace were level before the break through Jason Puncheon before Wilfried Zaha made it 2-1 from close range on the hour.
Then, in the 89th minute, Palace won a penalty after Zaha was tripped on the edge of the box by Lucas and Glenn Murray scored from the rebound after his spot-kick was saved by Simon Mignolet.
Salt was rubbed into Gerrard’s wounds by the fact defeat ended Liverpool’s slim hopes of Champions League football next season and instead sent bitter rivals Manchester United into, at worst, the qualifying round of Europe’s elite club competition.
“I’d like to thank everyone at the club who’s helped me over the last 17 years, from top to bottom,” said Gerrard in a post-match presentation
“But most of all, I’d like to thank the fans. These supporters here stand out more than any,” the former England skipper added.
Leicester, bottom of the table for 140 days, ensured they would be playing in the Premier League next term after a goalless draw with fellow strugglers Sunderland.
The Foxes have now lost just once, to champions Chelsea, in eight games.
“Success is relative and success for us this season, when you consider where we were a couple of months ago, to achieve safety with a game to go is testament to the work that the players have put in,” said Leicester manager Nigel Pearson.
With Burnley and QPR already demoted, Hull remained in the last drop spot after second-half goals from Nacer Chadli and Danny Rose secured a 2-0 victory for Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.
Defeat left Hull two points from safety and needing to beat Manchester United at the KC Stadium on the final day of the season a week on Sunday, with other results also having to go their way, in order to stay up.
Sunderland, who have two games to play, are three points ahead of Hull but with an inferior goal difference.
Newcastle were left just two points in front of the Tigers after a 2-1 loss to QPR — their ninth defeat in 10 games.
– Mane’s hat-trick record –
Aston Villa were thrashed 6-1 by Southampton, with Sadio Mane scoring the quickest hat-trick in Premier League history, but results elsewhere kept the Birmingham club in the top flight.
Mane took just two minutes and 56 seconds to complete his treble and surpass the previous Premier League hat-trick record of four minutes and 33 seconds set by Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler against Arsenal in 1994.
The Senegal winger started his goal-spree in the 13th minute when he tapped into an empty net after a fortunate deflection as he tried to round Villa goalkeeper Shay Given.
Just 84 seconds later the 23-year-old struck again when he latched onto a sloppy back pass from Villa defender Ron Vlaar and slotted past Given.
And he completed his remarkable feat with a fine first-time finish into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area.
Villa striker Christian Benteke scored on the stroke of half-time before Southampton striker Graziano Pelle completed the scoring at St Mary’s in the 81st minute.
“Any idiot knows we didn’t play well, they don’t need telling,” said Villa manager Tim Sherwood, whose side face holders Arsenal in the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 30.
Elsewhere, Everton beat West Ham 2-1, while Burnley and Stoke played out a goalless draw at Turf Moor.
Sunday sees second-placed Manchester City travel to Swansea while Arsenal face Manchester United in a clash between third and fourth at Old Trafford.
Chelsea are away to West Bromwich Albion on Monday.