Chelsea finished third in the Premier League after a narrow home win over Everton on Sunday brought their marathon season to an end.
In the 69th match of a campaign that has seen them compete for seven different trophies, a late Fernando Torres strike proved to be enough for them to seal a spot in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League next season.
Juan Mata’s early strike was cancelled out by Steven Naismith, but 14 minutes from time Torres – who entered the match without a league goal in 2013 – scored a late winner at Stamford Bridge.
Both managers – Chelsea’s Rafael Benitez and Everton’s David Moyes – were taking charge of their teams for the last time, with the Spaniard walking away the happier after a terrific week that also saw his club win the UEFA Europa League final on Wednesday.
Benitez made two changes, with striker Demba Ba and debutant Nathan Ake coming in for Cesar Azpilicueta and the suspended Ramires, while Moyes, who will replace Alex Ferguson at Manchester United in the off-season, selected Naismith in place of the injured Leon Osman.
Everton entered the match with five clean sheets from their last six Premier League games but their defence failed to stand up to an early Chelsea test, as Mata netted the opener after just seven minutes.
Mata’s goal, his 11th league strike of the campaign, came after Ba, who was on the end of a fast break, saw his effort spilled by Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard.
It was a poor piece of goalkeeping and the ball rolled into the path of Mata, who needed no second invitation, as he calmly tapped in to give Chelsea the early advantage.
In an open encounter, Naismith and Darron Gibson had good efforts for Everton, before the former produced a terrific finish to level proceedings after 14 minutes.
An errant David Luiz backpass came to Naismith, and after a neat one-two with Victor Anichebe, the Scotsman, who found himself in space, chipped a left-footed effort over the onrushing Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech to delight the travelling fans.
The game swung from end to end, as a deflected 25-yard effort from Gibson smashed the post while Torres missed a free header at the other end after an excellent Branislav Ivanovic cross.
Everton, who enjoyed the majority of possession, were opening up their opponents with ease at times and Cech was required to make a good save to deny Kevin Mirallas at the back post following a superb Gibson pass.
Howard was quick to deny Mata as Chelsea responded but Steven Pienaar had two chances to give Everton the lead late in the first half – the second of which hit an unaware Luiz on its way towards goal, as the visitors entered the half-time break the happier of the two sides.
Chelsea piled on the pressure in the second half and Gary Cahill’s early effort was well saved by Howard, while Ivanovic fired over following a corner when he really should have done better.
Ba almost capitalised on a poor piece of defending from Phil Jagielka, but he could only curl his effort wide, and Ivanovic was close with an effort from distance.
It seemed only a matter of time before Chelsea scored but they were almost made to pay by Everton substitute Nikica Jelavic, who could only turn a Leighton Baines cutback wide.
Chelsea’s second goal did come in the 76th minute, though, with Torres the scorer.
Victor Moses cleverly chested down a good cross from the right from Oscar and Torres was on hand to emphatically thump the ball home at the near post.
Jelavic had two further chances to score for Everton – one of which required a good save from Cech – but Chelsea held on for a crucial three points.