Blackburn Rovers have been relegated from the Premier League after a 1-0 defeat at home to Wigan Athletic ended their 11-year stay in the top flight.
Rovers had to win to have a chance of keeping their survival bid going to Sunday’s final day of the season, when they travel to Chelsea.
But it was north-west rivals Wigan who ensured their Premier League status when Antolin Alcaraz headed in the only goal of the game three minutes from time to remove the threat of relegation hanging over Roberto Martinez’s side.
Rovers went into the match six points from safety but they were always on the back foot against a Wigan side that confirmed their place when Paraguayan defender Alcaraz’s late header earned a sixth win in eight matches.
Consecutive victories in March took Blackburn, who only avoided relegation on the final day of last season, as high as 16th in the table.
However, a run of six defeats in seven put them back into trouble and relegation brings to an end a miserable campaign for the club, who were Premier League champions in 1995.
Despite the knowledge that a win would keep their survival hopes alive, the match was dominated by supporter protests against Rovers manager Steve Kean and unpopular owners Venky’s, an Indian poultry firm, who arrived in November 2010 promising big signings such as Ronaldinho and David Beckham.
Even before kick-off there were chants for Kean to be sacked and they continued throughout the game.
A chicken, dressed in Blackburn colours, was thrown onto the pitch in the early stages and just after half-time a supporter sprinted across the pitch and threw his season ticket in the air when he reached the dug-outs.
After a surprise run of results, which included victories over Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool, Wigan only needed a point to confirm their Premier League status.
But instead it was the visitors who began like the team that needed a win at a rain swept Ewood Park, with Victor Moses hitting a shot off-target and Franco di Santo breaking through only to be denied by Rovers keeper Paul Robinson.
In control of possession
Wigan were always in control of possession and after Moses broke away from Scott Dann his shot was turned wide by Robinson.
Morten Gamst Pedersen fired a free-kick well over the bar for the hosts and Shaun Maloney also dragged wide after Blackburn failed to clear the Scot’s free-kick.
Wigan, whose owner Dave Whelan is a former Blackburn player, should have taken the lead when di Santo was sent into space down the right and sent over a cross to the far post that Moses headed wide from six yards.
After the interval, Wigan’s Chilean winger Jean Beausejour had a drive deflected wide and Gary Caldwell pulled off a fine block from Yakubu after Dann headed down Junior Hoilett’s corner at the other end.
Yakubu just failed to get a touch on Pedersen’s free-kick as the hosts finally generated some pressure.
After di Santo dragged wide, Maloney also had a free-kick deflected over the bar before Anthony Modeste shot straight at Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi from 20 yards.
Moses was shown a yellow card after he went down under Pedersen’s challenge in the area as Wigan looked for a breakthrough.
Al Habsi produced a scrambling save from Hoilett’s scuffed shot and Robinson pulled off a fine double save from Moses and James McCarthy at the other end.
Maloney also wasted a fine chance when he lifted a header over the bar from Emmerson Boyce’s cross.
But three minutes before the end a Beausejour corner was met with enough power by Alcaraz’s header to beat Robinson’s despairing dive.
Angry Blackburn supporters invaded the pitch at the final whistle after Rovers’ relegation was confirmed.—Sapa-AFP. .