London: West Ham United were relegated to the First Division on Sunday after they drew 2-2 at Birmingham City and their rivals for the drop, Bolton Wanderers, beat Middlesbrough 2-1 at home on the final day of the English Premier League season.
West Ham, third from bottom on goal difference, had needed a better result than Bolton to avoid joining West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland in the First Division next season.
Chelsea held on to fourth place and a spot in the Champions League qualifiers by coming from behind for a 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge over fifth-placed Liverpool, who had Steven Gerrard red-carded at the very end.
Sixth place, and a slot in the Uefa Cup, was snatched at the death by Blackburn Rovers after they thrashed 10-man Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 at White Hart Lane to leapfrog Everton, who lost 1-2 at home to newly-crowned champions Manchester United.
United’s Ruud van Nistelrooy won the Golden Boot as the League’s top scorer after converting a match-winning penalty in the second half, his 25th goal in the championship and 44th in all competitions.
Bolton reached safety with superb first-half goals from midfielders Per Frandsen and Jay Jay Okocha, though they struggled after their former striker Michael Ricketts pulled one back for Boro in the 61st. The visitors had French defender Franck Queudrue sent off in the 78th.
West Ham go down despite winning two and now drawing one of their three games under caretaker manager Trevor Brooking, who took over after Glenn Roeder suffered a brain lesion.
Their late-season rally brought them 22 points from 11 games, but a combination of a poor first half of the season and a 0-1 defeat by Bolton last month sealed the club’s fate.
United had sealed their eighth League title in 11 seasons last weekend — overtaking defending champions Arsenal — but received the Premier League Trophy at Goodison Park on Sunday.
Arsenal, who face Southampton in next Saturday’s FA Cup final, signed off by thrashing Sunderland 4-0 away with a hattrick from Freddie Ljungberg.
Newcastle United, already assured of third place, drew 2-2 at West Bromwich Albion.
Chelsea’s fourth place was assured when Jesper Gronkjaer rifled in a 27th-minute winner after both captains had scored with headers — Finn Sami Hyypia for Liverpool, followed by Marcel Desailly for the Londoners.
Liverpool had already ensured a Uefa Cup place by beating Manchester United in this season’s League Cup final.