Sunday, June 24, 2018
Sports

Security blunder, fake bomb lead to Man U postponing finale

MANCHESTER, England — A security blunder at Manchester United prevented the English Premier League from completing its season Sunday, with a suspicious device thought to be a bomb spotted inside Old Trafford only discovered later to have been left from a terror exercise long after the game against Bournemouth was postponed.

Police conducted a controlled explosion, later saying the "incredibly lifelike explosive device" had not been cleared by security contractors from a toilet inside England's second biggest soccer stadium after the security exercise.

"It is outrageous this … arose, and a full inquiry is required to urgently find out how this happened, why it happened and who will be held accountable," said Tony Lloyd, the police and crime commissioner in Manchester.

The 380th and last game of the EPL season will be Tuesday in Manchester. The last round of games was scheduled to be played simultaneously, with spots in European competition still at stake. But United, owned by the Glazer family that owns the NFL's Bucs, knows it's effectively out of the Champions League race after Manchester City effectively secured fourth place Sunday.

With Man U's priority now beating Crystal Palace in Saturday's FA Cup final, Bournemouth could have a better chance to climb up to 15th place with a win Tuesday and collect more than $1.5 million in extra prize money.

Two stands in United's 75,000-capacity stadium were initially evacuated before the 3 p.m. kickoff. As military personnel arrived, the teams and remaining fans were ordered to leave the venue.

The security blunder is likely to add to the uneasiness about safety in sports stadiums in Europe after last year's Paris attacks when the Stade de France was targeted by suicide bombers.

The unsettling incident for fans came at the end of a most unpredictable EPL season.

Leicester was crowned champions earlier this month and completed the first title-winning season in its 132-year history with a 1-1 draw Sunday at manager Claudio Ranieri's former club, Chelsea.

Danny Drinkwater canceled out Cesc Fabregas' penalty to ensure that Leicester, which narrowly avoided relegation a year ago, ended this campaign with only three losses in the 38 games.

Leicester finished with 81 points, 10 above Arsenal, which overhauled north London rival Tottenham to claim second.

Tottenham had been Leicester's closest challenger for the title but failed to win its last four games, culminating in a humiliating 5-1 loss against 10-man Newcastle. That allowed Arsenal to climb into second after Olivier Giroud's hat trick in a 4-0 rout of last-place Aston Villa.

The results protected a proud record for Arsene Wenger: Arsenal has finished above Tottenham every season since the Frenchman took charge in 1996.

By finishing third, Tottenham is guaranteed a second shot at the Champions League. Harry Kane finished as the EPL's top scorer with 25 goals.

Man City's priority was securing fourth place, but new manager Pep Guardiola will have to advance through the playoffs in August to reach the group stage. In Manuel Pellegrini's last league match in charge, City was held 1-1 by Swansea but a vastly superior goal difference means it realistically cannot be caught by Man U.

Southampton beat FA Cup finalist Crystal Palace 4-1 to provisionally move above Man U into fifth on the brink of Europa League qualification. Southampton will stay there if United loses to Bournemouth.

Everton responded to the firing of manager Roberto Martinez by beating relegated Norwich 3-0, with American goalkeeper Tim Howard keeping a clean sheet in his 414th and last game after a decade with the Merseyside club. He's headed to Colorado of MLS.

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