Football: Stoke City first Premier League team to get relegated

Crestfallen Stoke defender Erik Pieters is comforted by Crystal Palace's Jeffrey Schlupp after the visitors won 2-1 to relegate Stoke from the English Premier League.
Crestfallen Stoke defender Erik Pieters is comforted by Crystal Palace's Jeffrey Schlupp after the visitors won 2-1 to relegate Stoke from the English Premier League.PHOTO: REUTERS

They lead Palace but concede twice to end 10-year stay in top flight, amid teary scenes

LONDON • Tears flowed yesterday when Stoke City were relegated in the penultimate week of the Premier League season but West Bromwich Albion showed there was some fight still left in them.

Needing to score with less than three minutes of stoppage time left, midfielder Jake Livermore scrambled the ball home from close range to give West Brom a 1-0 win over his former club Tottenham Hotspur at The Hawthorns.

Victory lifted the Baggies off the foot of the table but their survival bid hinged on last night's late kick-off between Southampton and Everton. A Saints' win would see West Brom join Stoke in next season's second-tier Championship.

West Brom's caretaker manager Darren Moore stretched his unbeaten spell to five games, with the third and latest victory taking his side up to 19th place on 31 points.

Stoke had the ignominy of becoming the first team to go down, ending their stay in the top flight after a decade after they blew a one-goal lead to lose 1-2 at home to Crystal Palace in an earlier game.

Paul Lambert's side have one game remaining but with Swansea and Southampton playing each other in midweek, it is impossible for Stoke to collect enough points to avoid the drop.

Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland was sobbing at the final whistle and their fans were just as emotional as the pain of relegation sank in. Hundreds left the bet365 stadium in the closing minutes before those that remained sang "City til I die" in a defiant rallying cry.

TOUGH YEAR

Ultimately it's down to the players. Since the gaffer has come in we've had a right go and been in every game.

RYAN SHAWCROSS, Stoke captain, admitting that the team have not been good enough despite a change of manager in mid-season.

Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross conceded that the players had only themselves to blame.

"It's difficult obviously but it's not just about one game. It's over a season and we've not been good enough all season," added the defender, whose failed interception four minutes from time inadvertently set up Patrick van Aanholt's winner. "Ultimately it's down to the players. Since the gaffer has come in we've had a right go and been in every game."

The blame for Stoke's predicament lies jointly with Lambert and Mark Hughes, who was sacked in January after a wretched run culminated in an embarrassing FA Cup third-round defeat by fourth-tier Coventry.

"My emotions are up and down. It is a tough afternoon. I am feeling for everyone connected with the club," said Lambert,who oversaw a 13th league match without a win - Stoke's worst top-flight sequence in 34 years. "When teams don't get results you can be sleep-walking into positions you don't want to be in. We never had enough. Since I came in the lads have given everything but we came (up) short. It is a chance to rebuild."

Xherdan Shaqiri had described the Palace clash as "a war we have to win" and the Stoke star landed the first blow in the 43rd minute.

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Having been fouled on the edge of the penalty area, Shaqiri picked himself up and exacted his revenge. His left-footed free kick took a slight deflection off Palace midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek as it curled past Wayne Hennessey before he could react.

But Palace midfielder James McArthur equalised in the 68th minute. Forced to throw men forward in search of a winner, the hosts were carved open in the 86th minute as van Aanholt slotted home to seal Stoke's fate.

The result mathematically confirmed Palace's safety, as they became the first team to avoid relegation from English football's top flight despite losing their opening seven league games since Liverpool in 1899-1900.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 06, 2018, with the headline 'Stoke first to go down'. Print Edition | Subscribe