Chelsea clinched the Premier League title with a hard fought 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge. A first half header from Eden Hazard was enough to clinch the points that put the league beyond doubt. The win opened up a 16 point gap ahead of the chasing pack, and it topped off a dominant season for Jose Mourinho’s side.
The Blues were once again without Diego Costa and Loic Remy, although the Frenchman was an unused substitute. That left Didier Drogba as the only option for Mourinho up front once more, and he made his fifth consecutive start. Juan Cuadrado was handed a rare start after Ramires came down with illness, while Thibaut Courtois returned to replace Petr Cech in goal.
For all the build-up, the first half didn’t really deliver. The hosts couldn’t carve out a chance to break the deadlock, while Palace tried their best to pressure Chelsea, breaking up play with quite a few fouls. Eventually that cost them, as Eden Hazard was brought down by James McArthur in the box. The Belgian got back up to take the kick, and he headed it home on the rebound after missing first time around.
That brought a bit of action to an otherwise dull first half, and Mourinho made his intentions more than clear during the break. He brought on John Obi Mikel to replace Juan Cuadrado, going with two defensive midfielders as he looked to hold on to the lead and the title. It came at the end of a week were Chelsea’s style of play was the big talking point, but the manager won’t be too upset about disappointing viewers at this point in the season.
Chances were few and far between again in the second half, and Palace seemed unable to do anything that would stop the Blues’ coronation. Close to the end the visitors had a flurry of corners as they pushed for an equaliser to spoil the party, but the host’s defence stood firm. Kurt Zouma and John Terry played a key role in keeping the Eagles at bay.
While the game wasn’t anything special, the sense of relief and joy that engulfed the stadium at full time was. Even Roman Abramovich jumped to his feet at the final whistle, as he saw the culmination of a season of hard work. After leading the table for a total of 253 days, the third longest spell in Premier League history, the side from Stamford Bridge finally wrestled back the title for the first time in five years.
It was far from a classic, but this is a vintage Chelsea side. They have a winning Mourinho edge mixed with fantastic players like Cesc Fabregas, Hazard and Oscar. They now have two trophies in the bag this season, and they have the potential to go on and dominate for the next few years.
LCN Man of the Match: Willian