London: Robin van Persie returned to frustrate Arsenal as the Manchester United striker rescued a 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium, while Reading and QPR were relegated from the Premier League on Sunday after playing out a 0-0 draw.
Van Persie was making his first appearance back at Arsenal since last year’s £24 million (Dh136 million) transfer to United and he was given a hostile reception the club’s supporters.
But, after Theo Walcott gave Arsenal a second-minute lead, the Dutch forward silenced the boo-boys when he fired home from the penalty spot after being fouled by Bacary Sagna in the 44th minute.
With the title already wrapped up, champions United were happy to settle for a draw, but the result was a setback for Arsenal, who dropped down to fourth place following Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Swansea.
A win for either Reading or QPR at the Madejski Stadium would have kept alive their slender chances of staying up, at least until Aston Villa’s clash with Sunderland on Monday.
But both looked wracked with nerves during a goalless stalemate that condemned Nigel Adkins’ Reading and Harry Redknapp’s QPR to starting next season in the Championship.
Bottom club Reading and second-bottom QPR are both nine points behind fourth-bottom Aston Villa with three games remaining, but a complicated equation means there is no chance of either avoiding the drop.
At Stamford Bridge, Chelsea cruised to a comfortable victory over Swansea that lifted them into third place, one point ahead of Arsenal.
Rafael Benitez’s side showed no signs of tiredness despite their recent gruelling schedule and Oscar gave them the lead with a fine finish from Frank Lampard’s pass in the 43rd minute.
Lampard, who had come on as a substitute for the injured Ramires, netted the second goal in first half stoppage-time. The England midfielder took his Chelsea career goal tally to 201 — within one of Bobby Tambling’s record — when he drove home a penalty after Leon Britton had fouled Juan Mata.
That was enough to move Chelsea three points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham in the race to qualify for the Champions League.
QPR have been backed heavily by Malaysian owner Tony Fernandes over the last 12 months, but Redknapp concedes their expensively assembled squad won’t find it easy to win an immediate return to the Premier League.
“Next year it will be very difficult to get promoted, there are some good teams,” Redknapp said.
“It will be a big challenge, there are lots of good teams in the Championship. For us to get promoted we have to come back in pre-season and get super fit.
“It you are not fit enough you won’t survive, you won’t get out of that league.”
Reading return to the Championship just 12 months after being promoted as second-tier champions and Adkins wants them to learn the lessons of their top-flight failure.
“I have told the players to bottle up the feeling as it is never nice to get relegated and make sure they never feel that way again,” he said.
“For any new promoted team it is a challenge to stay up. The Premier League is a ruthless division.
“We must now build for the future and learn the lessons well from this season. We have to regroup and put ourselves in a position to challenge to get back into the Premier League.”