Hull go down, Newcastle stay up
Newcastle secure safety with win over West Ham but Hull and Bruce go down
(Moussa Sissoko 54, Jonas Gutierrez 85)
WEST HAM 0
Steve Bruce doesn't do tears. He's too much of an old warhorse for that.
But he was hurting at the final whistle. The born winner was a beaten man.
Hull City were relegated on the last day of the season, pushed through the trapdoor by Newcastle's 2-0 victory against West Ham.
The Tigers' plucky 0-0 draw at home to Manchester United meant nothing beyond pride, and pride without victory is no consolation for a man like Bruce.
As a player, he contested every 50-50 challenge and rarely came up short. As a manager, the odds were never in his favour.
With Hull reliant upon Newcastle's result, Bruce was effectively fighting with one hand tied behind his back. It wasn't a fair fight.
Never one to wallow in sentimentality, he won't stew too long on the fact that relegation was confirmed by his hometown club on a day he failed to beat his old club United.
There's no romance in defeat. Bruce was beaten. Nothing else mattered but victory. And both Hull and Newcastle played accordingly.
They followed that time-honoured tradition of rubbish, relegation-threatened teams waking from their comas with only 90 minutes left of the campaign.
Both clubs gave up on the Beautiful Game and played pinball instead.
In the opening seconds, Hull's Dame N'Doye sent a header straight at United's reserve goalkeeper Victor Valdes. He should have scored.
At Newcastle, Emmanuel Rivere spurned a couple of decent chances from close range. He should have scored at least once against the hapless Hammers.
Between the two, Wayne Rooney clipped the crossbar at Hull to remind the hosts that United were not quite sipping expensive cocktails at exclusive beach resorts.
Besides, two seasons without silverware is hardly a cause for celebration for United and their defensive frailties almost saw Hull score twice.
First, Valdes dropped a cross in the 19th minute and gifted Paul McShane a tap-in, which was ruled out for offside.
Moments later, Hull played out Groundhog Day as Stephen Quinn threaded his shot through a sea of legs and into the bottom corner.
Unfortunately, a couple of pairs belonged to two straying Tigers in offside position.
Two goals disallowed in as many minutes, the KC Stadium wailed in collective anguish.
From triumph to disaster in a heartbeat, Bruce managed a wry smile on the touchline. But his glowing complexion betrayed his tension.
His 50 shades of crimson were bright enough to stop traffic.
The Hull manager's anxiety was warranted. He had just seen a stunning save from Valdes to keep out Ahmed Elmohamady.
Elmohamady held his head in his hands. So did men, women and children in the stadium.
As half-time crept closer, the Tigers' early momentum gave away to apprehension. In an irony lost on no one inside the KC Stadium, the gloomy afternoon was raining goals just about everywhere except St James' Park.
At half-time, both games were still 0-0. At half-time, Hull were going down.
The relegation candidates were suffering contrasting fortunes. As Hull faded against United, Newcastle grew in stature against West Ham after a jittery start.
Borrowing a boxing analogy, the Tigers edged ahead on points in the second half.
While Newcastle got caught in scrappy exchanges with West Ham, David Meyler found the ball at his feet, eight metres from goal. Hearts stopped. Meyler blazed wide.
They couldn't win on points. They needed a knockout blow. It wasn't good enough and was finally punished at St James' Park.
In the 54th minute, Jonas Gutierrez whipped a perfect cross towards the penalty spot and Moussa Sissoko rose highest, from Magpie to phoenix, to plant a thumping header home.
John Carver, out of his depth at Newcastle for so long, found himself buried once more, this time beneath a wave of celebrating players.
Within seconds, pins were heard dropping across the KC Stadium. The silence was deafening.
Valdes pulled off a stupendous save to deny Nikica Jelavic from close range in the 73rd minute, which rallied the crowd but also served as an unwanted reminder.
They were running out of time.
The drama intensified when Marouane Fellaini was sent off for a disgraceful, cowardly challenge on Paul McShane; a dreadful end for an otherwise decent season for the Belgian.
But Gutierrez's late, deflected strike in the 85th minute confirmed Newcastle's survival and Hull's relegation.
There was only one miracle on offer on the final day. And the Magpies pinched it.
"Newcastle is bigger than this. We have to look forward. A few months ago I didn’t know if I was going to be able to play football again. I’m so proud to be here."
- Jonas Gutierrez
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