CARDIFF – Cardiff City have been relegated from the Premier League after slumping to a 3-2 defeat against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Neil Warnock’s side needed a win to have a realistic chance of beating the drop on the last day of the season, but they were out-classed by Palace at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Third bottom Cardiff are four points behind fourth bottom Brighton with only one game remaining, ensuring they will join already relegated Huddersfield and Fulham in the second tier next season.
The Bluebirds will make an immediate return to the Championship after last season’s promotion, their fate sealed by a dismal run of nine defeats in their last 11 league games.
It won’t be a season fondly remembered by Cardiff, with their relegation coming after the tragic death of striker Emiliano Sala, who died in a plane crash en route to Wales before he had even played a game for the club.
Warnock’s name was chanted by Cardiff fans despite the loss, but it remains to be seen if the 70-year-old returns for the Championship promotion bid next term.
In a painful twist, Cardiff were pushed towards relegation by Palace winger Wilfried Zaha, who spent time on loan with Cardiff when they last dropped out of the Premier League in 2014.
The Ivory Coast international, booed by Cardiff fans, gave an influential display on his return to south Wales and fired Palace in front from the edge of the area in the 28th minute.
Martin Kelly gifted Cardiff a lifeline three minutes later when the Palace defender tried to cut out Leandro Bacuna’s cross but instead diverted the ball into his own net when he could have left it for goalkeeper Vicente Guaita to collect.
Kelly’s blunder did little to ease Cardiff’s obvious anxiety and on-loan Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi restored Palace’s lead when he punished sloppy marking with a clinical close-range finish in the 40th minute.
Andros Townsend effectively confirmed Cardiff’s relegation in the 70th minute with a low drive that went in via the woodwork and Bobby Reid’s 90th minute curler was no consolation for the beleaguered hosts.AFP