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Holding fourth: Chelsea clinch Champions League football next season as Tottenham Bale them out by winning final game at Leicester

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On a dramatic final day of the Premier League season, Chelsea slumped over the line and finished fourth in the table despite losing at Aston Villa – relying on two late goals by Gareth Bale as Tottenham turned over Leicester.

Entering the finale in third place, Chelsea knew that a win would guarantee a place in Europe’s flagship competition next season and avoid heaping more pressure on their Champions League final against Manchester City next season, when they would have been relying on victory to qualify again had they finished outside the Premier League top four.

2-0 down at Aston Villa and with the pretenders for their place in their top four, Liverpool and Leicester, both winning, Chelsea were heading for a frustrating fifth-placed finish that would only have secured a Europa League place on the merit of their league position.

Rivals Tottenham came to the rescue, forcing goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel into an own-goal to make it 2-2 with less than 15 minutes of normal time remaining in their season swansong.

At that stage, Chelsea were heading for the Champions League by virtue of having a two-goal superiority on goal difference to Leicester, who they were level on points with.

The unlikely Chelsea saviour of Gareth Bale, the Real Madrid superstar who has returned to Spurs on loan, then scored twice late on at the King Power Stadium to put the Blues a point clear in the race for fourth and ensure the Foxes fell out of the top four.

In an underwhelming performance that did not bode well for their clash with champions City in Porto, captain Cesar Azpilicueta was sent off late on for a daft altercation with England midfielder Jack Grealish.

More to follow

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