Chelsea enjoy day in the sun as they wrap up Premier League title
José Mourinho’s men crowned champions with three games still to play
Chelsea’s Eden Hazard celebrates after scoring against Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA
Hazard had just seen possibly the most feeble penalty of his career come back off Julian Speroni, the Crystal Palace goalkeeper. He scored the rebound with an improvised header and that was the moment Stamford Bridge could start to turn up the volume and soak in the club’s new status as champions of England.
Once again they were a good notch or two down on the level of performance seen before Christmas when Cesc Fàbregas played with such elegance, Diego Costa was battering opposition defences and there was undoubtedly a greater sense of adventure than during the last couple of months.
“Manchester United can’t catch us,” he began. “Manchester City can’t catch us. Arsenal can’t catch us.” Each sentence prompted a louder cheer than the one before.
In many ways it was the classic Chelsea performance that has been witnessed so many times lately: efficient, structured, methodical. John Terry showed again the remarkable influence he has on a team that never seem to be afflicted by nerves. Hazard flitted around dangerously and Fàbregas was never long off the ball.
They always kept half-a-dozen players behind the ball to protect themselves against the speed of Palace’s counter-attacking players and Mourinho’s substitutions late on told their own story. Kurt Zouma was brought on for Willian and Filipe Luis was introduced to replace Hazard. Chelsea had nothing else on their minds but to suffocate the game in its final moments. “Today was not a game to enjoy,” Mourinho said matter-of-factly. “Today was a day to finish the job.”
No doubt they will face more accusations of not winning thrillingly enough but do not presume that will bother Mourinho. “I think everyone knows we deserve this,” he said. “It’s just that some don’t say it.”
Difficult opponentsAlan Pardew
If Hazard was clipped it was mostly because he initiated the contact himself. What looked a penalty at full speed looked considerably less so in slow motion. Hazard’s penalty was struck so poorly that Speroni might have made a better job of holding on to it. Instead the rebound popped up invitingly for Hazard to brace his neck muscles and score at the second attempt.
Mourinho had returned to Portugal last week to visit his father who was undergoing an operation and on the final whistle he immediately sought his family seated behind the dugout. But the man who is averaging a trophy every 34 games still managed to get the last word. This one came in the form of an old Portuguese saying – “Os caes ladram, mas a caravana passa”. It translates as dogs bark but the caravan keeps on.
It means to pay no attention to what people say – good advice when the Premier League trophy is on it way back to Stamford Bridge. Guardian Service