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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Wasteful Hammers relegated after loss to Wigan


LONDON — West Ham became the first team relegated from the Premier League and needs a new manager for next season after squandering a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 at Wigan on Sunday.

News photo
Burst bubble: A West ham fan tries to come to terms with his team's relegation from the Premier League on Sunday. AP PHOTO

Needing to beat their fellow struggler to prolong a six-year stay in the top division, the Hammers were 2-0 up after 26 minutes through a pair of goals by Demba Ba.

But Charles N'Zogbia started Wigan's comeback with a 57th-minute free kick and Conor Sammon equalized 11 minutes later with his first goal for the club. N'Zogbia then scored deep into injury time with a shot across goalkeeper Robert Green that went in at the far post.

An hour after the defeat left the east London club bottom of the standings and six points from safety with just one game remaining, West Ham said on its website that Avram Grant "is no longer the manager of West Ham United."

Grant served just one year of a four-year contract.

"I feel so sorry that we couldn't do the job that I wanted to do," Grant said immediately after the game. "I still believe in the future of this club."

Grant could be followed out of the club by leading players including Scott Parker and Carlton Cole, with the cost of relegation from the lucrative Premier League widely estimated at £40 million ($65 million).

"It's not an easy day," Grant said. "Not for me, not for others."

West ham is six points behind its nearest rivals, Wigan, Blackpool and Birmingham, which lost 2-0 to visiting Fulham in another of Sunday's five games. That trio, along with Wolverhampton Wanderers and Blackburn, are the candidates to fill the remaining two relegation spots.

Wolves host Blackburn next Sunday, when Blackpool is at champion Manchester United, Birmingham is at Tottenham and Wigan is at Stoke.

Fulham defender Brede Hangeland scored twice to leave Birmingham still in danger of relegation.

Arsenal is in danger of finishing in fourth place — matching its lowest finish since Arsene Wenger took over as manager in 1996 — after a 2-1 home defeat by Aston Villa, Tottenham won 2-0 at Liverpool to move above its opponent into fifth place, and Chelsea drew 2-2 with Newcastle.

A day after Manchester United won a record 19th English championship, Arsenal had a chance to put pressure on Chelsea for second place. But England striker Darren Bent scored twice in the first 15 minutes for Villa and Arsenal wasted a host of chances and majority possession.

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