Newcastle United relegated after defeat by Villa

Aston Villa 1 Newcastle United 0

Newcastle's 16-year spell in the Barclays Premier League came to an end as Damien Duff's own goal doomed them to defeat at Aston Villa.



Duff deflected a 38th-minute shot from stand-in skipper Gareth Barry past his own goalkeeper Steve Harper to seal their fate.

It meant Magpies legend Alan Shearer had failed to work the miracle he was brought in to try and achieve with eight games remaining.

Newcastle have paid the price for a season of instability ever since Kevin Keegan decided to quit as manager in early September and Mike Ashley decided to put the club up for sale.

Joe Kinnear was brought in to try and rescue the situation until his heart problems terminated his involvement and led to Shearer getting the call.

But it was always going to be an uphill task to reverse a season of under-achievement and turmoil in such a short space of time

Now Shearer has to decide whether he wants to take on the task of trying to help the Magpies regain their top flight status and is due to have talks with Ashley early next week.

He clearly has a massive rebuilding job ahead of them with the future of 15 players, reportedly on £50,000 or more a week, to be sorted out ahead of the less glamorous life of trips to Peterborough and Scunthorpe in the Coca-Cola Championship.

For Villa they can look back on another season of progression despite a late fade-out after automatically qualifying for Europe for the first time in 11 years.

But Martin O'Neill will need to add further quality and quantity to his squad in the summer if he is to seriously challenge for a Champions League place.

Before the kick-off Villa fans gave an emotional send-off to skipper and central defender Martin Laursen, who has been forced to retire because of a knee problem.

Gabriel Agbonlahor came close to giving Villa the lead after only two minutes when he powered a header over the bar from close range following a left-wing centre by Barry.

Villa dominated the early stages and knocked the ball around in confident style - but Brad Friedel was called upon to make the first meaningful save when he deflected a low drive from Duff around the post after he appeared to be initially unsighted.

Villa defender Carlos Cuellar then came to his side's rescue when he blocked a shot on the turn from Peter Lovenkrands on the line.

Obafemi Martins volleyed powerfully over the bar from 12 yards out after good play by Mark Viduka, before Harper reacted quickly to turn over a powerful drive from Craig Gardner.

Newcastle defender Steven Taylor became the first player to be yellow carded after 34 minutes for bringing down Agbonlahor 30 yards out.

Milner's free-kick went straight through the defensive wall but Harper was alert to the situation and able to save at the foot of a post.

The decisive goal came after Nicky Butt conceded a corner, appearing to indicate Harper had not given him a call.

The danger appeared to have been averted when Taylor headed out Ashley Young's centre - but Stiliyan Petrov headed the ball back to Barry, whose fierce shot struck Duff and completely wrong-footed Harper before finding the corner of the net.

Agbonlahor nearly doubled Villa's lead when his flick from John Carew's centre flew just wide of the far post - but Martins almost levelled in injury-time when he headed wide from Butt's free-kick.

Villa began the second half on the attack and Harper was forced to fingertip away an inswinging and powerfully driven corner from Young at full stretch.

Young took advantage of the Newcastle defence backing off to line up a shot from 20 yards out but he curled his effort past the post.

Harper was relieved when Milner dragged his low shot wide when unmarked 20 yards out as the Newcastle defence were prised open with ease.

Newcastle fans chanted "attack, attack, attack" but there was little evidence of their side threatening the Villa goal.

Shearer brought on leading scorer Michael Owen - who has been struggling with a groin injury - in place of Kevin Nolan after 66 minutes.

But Carew should have sealed Newcastle's fate when he miskicked with the goal at his mercy from an Agbonlahor centre.

David Edgar was sent off in injury-time for bringing down Ashley Young - his second bookable offence - and soon after the Magpies' fate was sealed.

Second-bottom Middlesbrough will join the Magpies and already-relegated West Brom in the Coca-Cola Championship next year after they were defeated 2-1 at West Ham.

The hosts went ahead after 33 minutes when Carlton Cole sidefooted past Brad Jones and although Gary O'Neill hit an equaliser shortly after the break, the Hammers won it eight minutes later through Junior Stanislas.

Sunderland were the only other side in any danger of getting relegated at the start of play and had other results to thank for their survival after they were beaten 3-2 by Chelsea at the Stadium of Light in Guus Hiddink's last game in charge of the Blues.

Nicolas Anelka took the season's Golden Boot award in style with a wonder-strike two minutes into the second half before Kieran Richardson took advantage of Petr Cech's fumble to level.

But Salomon Kalou gave the visitors the lead again in the 74th minute and Ashley Cole wrapped up the win in the final 10 minutes, Kenwyne Jones netting another for the Black Cats in injury time.

Further up the table, Fulham claimed the final Europa League spot despite losing 2-0 to Everton at Craven Cottage.

Leon Osman hit both goals for the Toffees, but Roy Hodgson's team retained seventh spot as Tottenham were defeated 3-1 by Liverpool.

The Reds took the lead in the first-half thanks to Fernando Torres' header and Alan Hutton's own goal made it two after the break.

Robbie Keane pulled one back against his former employers with a quarter of an hour to go, but Yossi Benayoun netted Liverpool's third nine minutes from time.

Elsewhere, Arsenal were in a rampant mood at the Emirates Stadium, demolishing Stoke in the first half on the way to a 4-1 victory.

The Gunners opened the scoring on 10 minutes, striker James Beattie's instincts appearing to get the better of him as he slotted the ball into his own net from Cesc Fabregas' cross.

The hosts then made it 2-0 on the quarter hour when Robin van Persie was brought down by Ryan Shawcross and converted the resulting spot-kick, and Abou Diaby headed a third two minutes later.

Ricardo Fuller pulled back a penalty at the other end, but van Persie rattled in another for the hosts four minutes before the interval having capitalised on a mistake by Rory Delap.

Manchester City triumphed 1-0 over Bolton after Felipe Caicedo's close-range finish on nine minutes, and Wigan beat Portsmouth 1-0, Hugo Rodallega netting.

In the final day's other fixture, Blackburn versus West Brom finished 0-0 at Ewood Park with Jason Roberts sent off for the hosts mid-way through the second half.

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