Results: Arsenal 2-1 Leeds United, Aston Villa 3-2 Coventry City, Bradford City 1-1 Middlesbrough, Chelsea 2-1 Everton, Leicester City 4-2 Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool FC 3-0 Newcastle United, Manchester United 0-1 Derby County, Sunderland 3-2 Charlton Athletic, West Ham United 3-0 Southampton, Ipswich Town 2-1 Manchester City, Liverpool FC 2-2 Chelsea
With three games to go and the title already wrapped up by Manchester United, attention in May 2001 was largely focused on the bottom of the table. Bradford City were already condemned to relegation but the fight for survival was on between Derby County, Manchester City and Coventry City.
All three sides had testing fixtures away from home and with no margin for error, the side able to pull off a victory was more likely to survive. Derby had the most challenging match with a trip to the champions at Old Trafford. Jim Smith’s side had struggled all season and had only won one of their last seven encounters. The Rams though had pulled off an unexpected victory away at Manchester United in April 1997, so they had experience of producing the unexpected and they did so again here, with a shock 1-0 victory. Malcolm Christie scored the only goal of the game in the 34th minute to inflict only a second home defeat on Sir Alex Ferguson’s side all season. This win piled the pressure on Coventry City.
It meant the Sky Blues had to realistically win at Villa Park against Midlands rivals Aston Villa. They were in a very strong position when two spectacular goals from Mustapha Hadji had them 2-0 ahead. However, it was a position Gordon Strachan’s side weren’t used to in the 2000-2001 season. They’d recorded just eight league victories all campaign and it showed. Darius Vassell and Juan Pablo Angel pulled Villa level and with four minutes to go, Paul Merson delivered the final blow with a superb curling effort. The Villans won 3-2 and that result, combined with Derby’s win meant Coventry’s 34-year stay in England’s top-flight was officially over. They haven’t been back since.
Two nights later, a similar fate befell Manchester City. Shaun Goater gave their supporters hope by opening the scoring away to high-flying Ipswich Town in the 74th minute. Matt Holland equalised four minutes later though and Martijn Reuser’s diving header five minutes from full-time sealed a 2-1 win for Ipswich to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the following season’s UEFA Champions League. For Joe Royle and Manchester City, it was the end of the road and relegation back to the First Division.
Ipswich were in a three-horse race for the final UEFA Champions League qualifying position and it was advantage Liverpool FC in this particular battle. The Reds were preparing for the FA Cup final with Arsenal but warmed up by claiming four points from two home fixtures. Michael Owen was in sensational form, scoring yet another hat-trick against Newcastle United in a 3-0 success. Three days later, he grabbed another two goals in an absorbing 2-2 draw with Chelsea, as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink matched Owen’s accomplishment. The Dutchman’s two goals on Merseyside saw him take a giant step closer to winning the Golden Boot.
Elsewhere, Arsenal secured the runners-up position by defeating in-form Leeds United 2-1. Freddie Ljungberg and Sylvain Wiltord scored the goals in what turned out to be a damaging defeat for Leeds’ prospects of matching their third place finish from the previous campaign. Leicester’s wretched run of seven consecutive losses was ended by a 4-2 home victory against Tottenham Hotspur with goals from Gary Rowett, Dean Sturridge, Steve Guppy and a Robbie Savage penalty whilst Middlesbrough’s safety was secured by other results. They drew 1-1 at Valley Parade with bottom-placed Bradford City.
What else happened in May 2001?
- Campaigning for the UK General Election is dominated by a scuffle between Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and a protestor in Rhyl after an egg is thrown at him.
- Silvio Berlusconi becomes Italian Prime Minister for the second time after winning the election in Italy.
- The government decides to start relaxing its tough sanctions put in place to tackle the foot and mouth crisis two months on.
- Liverpool FC complete a unique ‘Treble’ of cup victories, defeating Arsenal 2-1 in the FA Cup final in Cardiff, before prevailing 5-4 against Spanish side Alaves in the UEFA Cup final in Dortmund.
- At 16, Temba Tsheri becomes the youngest person to summit Mount Everest.
- With the song ‘Everybody,’ Estonia win the 2001 Eurovision Song Contest.