English round-up: Avram Grant pays penalty as West Ham are relegated

WEST Ham manager Avram Grant was sacked last night as the club's relegation from the Barclays Premier League was confirmed when they threw away a two-goal lead at Wigan - who ensured their own survival battle goes to the last day of the season thanks to Charles N'Zogbia's stoppage-time winner.

Meanwhile, Alex McLeish and Birmingham City are slap bang in the middle of the last-day dogfight after they lost 2-0 at home to Fulham, which leaves them on the edge of the drop-zone, ahead of Wigan and Blackpool on goal difference only.

The Hammers needed a victory at the DW Stadium to stand any chance of surviving and were 2-0 up at half-time courtesy of Demba Ba's headers on 12 and 26 minutes.

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The Latics stormed back after the break however as N'Zogbia scored twice, either side of a goal from former Kilmarnock striker Conor Sammon, leaving Roberto Martinez's team in the bottom three on goal difference alone and sending the visitors down.

Wigan are 19th in the table with one game to go, level on 39 points with 18th-placed Blackpool and 17th-placed Birmingham.

The Carling Cup holders, lacking several key players through injury and suspension, produced their worst performance of the season at St Andrew's to leave their top-flight status on a knife edge as Brede Hangeland did the damage with a double.

Birmingham have to visit Tottenham on Sunday, while Blackpool are away to Manchester United and Wigan travel to Stoke.

Fulham manager Mark Hughes would have expected a response from his side after the 5-2 home defeat by Liverpool on Monday. But he could not have imagined his players having such a stroll to victory, and only poor finishing prevented them from at least doubling the final victory margin.

The Blues defence was at sixes and sevens and could not cope with Bobby Zamora, Andy Johnson and Clint Dempsey.

They were not allowed to settle in midfield and posed the minimum of threat up front without the pace and energy of the injured Cameron Jerome.

To add to their woes Lee Bowyer, Stuart Parnaby and Martin Jiranek all had to be substituted through injury, and then Alexander Hleb limped off to leave them playing with ten men for the final 13 minutes.

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Meanwhile, Tottenham seized the advantage in the race for the final Europa League spot as Liverpool's first match since the appointment of Kenny Dalglish as permanent manager ended in a 2-0 defeat.However, referee Howard Webb could have been accused of having a hand in deciding the outcome with a series of questionable decisions which culminated in the award of a very favourable penalty for the visitors' second.

Rafael van der Vaart's volley had given Harry Redknapp's side an early lead only for Liverpool to wrest back control of the game until 11 minutes after the interval when Webb controversially pointed to the spot and Luka Modric converted.

Dalglish chose not to publicly criticise Webb afterwards but he did claim that officials "get away scot-free" by not having to explain their decisions.

Dalglish, conscious of the punishments dished out to the likes of Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson in recent weeks, would not directly voice his concerns over Webb's performance, which included a series of odd decisions.

"I'm not here to sponsor the FA," said the Scot, clearly unhappy at the official's handling of the game. "It is unhelpful to everyone that we cannot express our true thoughts and it is even more disappointing that the officials get away scot-free without having to come in and explain their decisions.

"I think it is safer for me to leave it at that. We cannot legislate for refereeing mistakes but we could have been a greater help to ourselves if we had started the game better."

At the Emirates meanwhile, Arsenal's frustrating end to the season continued as Aston Villa ran out winners after an early brace from Darren Bent.

The Gunners are now in real danger of seeing FA Cup winners Manchester City, who have a match in hand, overtake them in the race for automatic Champions League qualification after a third defeat in four games.

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Bent struck twice inside the opening 15 minutes following more poor defending. Wenger will no doubt point to key decisions from referee Michael Oliver to turn down a first-half penalty shout, and then rule out a header from substitute Marouane Chamakh before Robin van Persie bundled home a late consolation, but the boos which rang out at the final whistle sent a clear message that more of the same next season will not be tolerated.Spare page