Scroll to Photostream above left for match photos, click on the statistics tab for match stats; manager reaction below.
Gareth Bale struck late on to hand Tottenham Hotspur victory over 10-man Sunderland, but the Wales international’s 90th-minute strike was not enough to secure his side UEFA Champions League football.
The fourth and final place in Europe's premier club competition went to Arsenal as the Gunners overcame Newcastle United by the same margin at St James' Park, leaving Spurs with the consolation of a highest-ever Barclays Premier League haul of 72 points.
Andre Villas-Boas brought back Benoit Assou-Ekotto at left-back, with Steven Caulker reverting to the bench, while Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio made two changes, David Vaughan coming in for Tottenham loanee Danny Rose and Connor Wickham replacing Phil Bardsley.
Emmanuel Adebayor tested Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet in the fifth minute after escaping his marker inside the area and Tottenham pressed hard for the next 15 minutes, only for their final ball to lack the required cutting edge against a resolute Sunderland defence.
The hosts nearly went a goal down on the half-hour mark when Danny Graham got free on the right and fed Wickham. The former Ipswich Town striker managed to evade his marker and turn the ball goalwards, only for Hugo Lloris to palm away his effort superbly.
Bale's goalbound shot in the 36th minute ricocheted off Jack Colback's arm to no avail, with James McClean booked for a foul on Tom Huddlestone a minute later. Bale's resulting free-kick forced Mignolet into a smart save, with the Belgian goalkeeper tipping away John O'Shea's wayward header from Bale soon after.
Tottenham started the second half strongly, Assou-Ekotto's cross agonisingly missing two onrushing Spurs players, but Di Canio's visitors went close again in the 50th minute when Lloris palmed away Graham's fierce left-footed shot.
The home side claimed for a penalty when the ball hit Carlos Cuellar with Huddlestone firing over a few minutes later, and it appeared as though it was not to be their day when Colback sliced the ball on to his own post from Clint Dempsey's shot and the ball cannoned out to safety.
Mignolet then clawed away a Michael Dawson header and got down smartly to foil Bale in the 72nd minute as Tottenham increased the pressure. Billy Knott came on for his Sunderland debut on 74 minutes just before Vaughan was sent off for a rash challenge on Aaron Lennon.
Mignolet again got down well again to deny Bale with nine minutes to go but there was nothing he could do to stop the Barclays Player of the Year’s final effort, a wonderful left-footed strike from distance that rocketed into the top far corner.
Spurs head coach Andre Villas-Boas: “It is a bit disappointing obviously but it did not depend on us and Arsenal did their job to sneak fourth spot. To manage so many points and not make it means the level has come up, and it serves a reference for next season.
"Others have pushed on a level and next year we have to improve, so it is a good lesson to take into next season. It is a pity we missed it this season, because normally it would be enough to qualify."
Sunderland head coach Paolo Di Canio: "We’re obviously disappointed with the result but the lads have done a very good job. They gave everything in terms of commitment and desire but we’re still going back with zero points from the game.
“Gareth Bale made the difference once again for Tottenham with a great piece of play. I’m very happy with the performance; it was disciplined and we didn’t lose our brains.
“Sometimes in final games the players are too relaxed and thinking about their holidays, but that was not the case today. Spurs had to work hard to get their three points. The team did well considering players like Jack Colback and Sebastian Larsson weren’t in their normal positions.”
|20 Dec 2014||v Spurs (H)|
|26 Dec 2014||v Leicester (A)|
|28 Dec 2014||v Spurs (H)|
|01 Jan 2015||v Spurs (H)|
|10 Jan 2015||v Crystal Palace (A)|
|17 Jan 2015||v Spurs (H)|