Chelsea were crowned Premier League champions for the fourth time after securing an edgy 1-0 win over Crystal Palace on Sunday.
After coming from behind to beat Leicester City 3-1 in midweek, Jose Mourinho’s side knew that three points at Stamford Bridge would secure a first title since 2010.
Palace manager Alan Pardew – who masterminded one of Chelsea’s two top-flight defeats this term while in charge of Newcastle United – urged his team to make Mourinho and co wait to pop the champagne corks.
And the visitors put in a spirited display throughout, but were undermined when James McArthur felled Eden Hazard in the penalty area on the stroke of half-time.
Hazard saw the resulting spot-kick saved by Julian Speroni before nodding home the rebound, and it was fitting that the PFA Player of the Year – so instrumental in Chelsea’s success this season – should get the goal that earned Mourinho his third Premier League crown.
Chelsea were not at their best in a nervy second half but, like they have all season, got the job done to seal the title with three matches to spare.
And the Stamford Bridge faithful chanted Mourinho’s name as they celebrated a second trophy this term following their League Cup success in March.
Mourinho had a simple 10-word message in his programme notes: “Three more points to be champions. Let’s do it together.”
Chelsea had to show that united front to guard against an enterprising opening from Palace as the hosts struggled to muster much in front of goal.
Juan Cuadrado – drafted in as a late replacement for Ramires who pulled out in the warm-up – flashed a 30-yard strike over the crossbar, before Palace had tentative claims for a penalty turned down when Jason Puncheon’s deflected shot struck the arm of John Terry.
A spot-kick was awarded at the other end shortly before the break, though, when Hazard was tripped by McArthur after a darting run into the box.
The Belgium star saw his weak penalty saved by Speroni, but he headed in the rebound to ease the tension around Stamford Bridge.
Keen to protect their lead, Chelsea lowered the tempo after the break – Branislav Ivanovic and John Obi Mikel both missing with long-rang efforts.
Palace did little to threaten an equaliser, although Puncheon’s fizzing 30-yard shot drifted just wide and their willingness to play on the front foot made sure Chelsea could not relax.
Thibaut Courtois, a spectator in the Chelsea goal for most of the game, proved his worth to deny Wilfried Zaha from close range, while Willian skipped past two challenges and shot narrowly wide at the other end.
But it mattered little, as Mourinho and his players celebrated jubilantly at full-time.
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