Huddersfield Town is staying in the Premier League. Manager David Wagner called the prospect of avoiding relegation a “miracle.” Now it is a reality.
Three days after holding Manchester City at the Etihad, the Terriers went to Stamford Bridge and nicked a 1-1 draw off of Chelsea to move four points clear of the drop zone with one match to play.
It took frantic goalmouth scrambles and Jonas Lossl finger-tip saves. It took a Chelsea goalkeeping error and some heroic defending. It took sizable chunks of good fortune that could be described as, well miraculous.
And that’s exactly why it incited on-field pile-ons and child-like celebrations at the final whistle. Players hoisted and hurled Wagner up into the air. Fans saluted them with unceasing applause.
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“Absolutely incredible,” defender Tommy Smith said after the game. “People thought last year was some achievement, getting to the Premier League. But make no mistake, to contain it, and stay in the Premier League for another season, is even bigger.”
The Terriers were almost written off before a ball had been kicked in August. Having come up to the top flight through the promotion playoffs with a negative goal differential during the regular season, they were heavy favorites to go down. Nobody saw a road that led them to safety – except Wagner and his players.
“To be quite honest, I think my English is not good enough to find words to describe what the players have done over the full season and tonight,” Wagner said Wednesday. “I am a strong believer that if you have the passion, and the desire, and the spirit, you can compete with top, top quality.”
In securing safety, Huddersfield swung both the Premier League’s top-four race and relegation scrap. Their gain was also Tottenham’s gain, but Chelsea’s and Swansea’s loss. The latter two now need miracles of their own to qualify for the Champions League and avoid relegation, respectively.
Tottenham beat Newcastle 1-0 to secure its qualification for next season’s Champions League, and left Premier League table look looking like this heading into Sunday, the final day of the 2017-18 season:
Updated Premier League table
3. Tottenham — 74 (+37)
4. Liverpool — 72 (+42)
5. Chelsea — 70 (+27)
16. Huddersfield — 37 (-29)
17. Southampton — 36 (-18)
18. Swansea — 33 (-27)
Not only is Huddersfield safe; Swansea’s most likely route to safety has disappeared.
Heading into Wednesday, there was, per FiveThirtyEight, a 22 percent chance that the Swans could catch Huddersfield. That 22 percent has flown at the window, and now the only route for Swansea is a win over Stoke, a Southampton loss to Manchester City, and a 10-goal swing between the two.
Top 4 scenarios
With Tottenham beating Newcastle, Chelsea’s top-four hopes have taken a significant hit.
Spurs are now out of reach. So Chelsea’s only hope is to overtake Liverpool. Barring a 16-goal Chelsea victory (and a Liverpool draw), the only way it can overtake Liverpool is with a win at Newcastle and a Reds loss to Brighton at home.
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