Chelsea dig in to clinch title

Date published: Sunday 3rd May 2015 3:40

The Blues needed one more victory to ensure they could wrestle the league crown away from the Manchester stronghold, and Eden Hazard’s header – on the rebound after a spurned first-half penalty – was enough to settle a cagey affair.

Palace were no pushovers and had several half-chances to get themselves back into the match but it was Chelsea’s day, Manchester City dethroned with three games to spare.

Jose Mourinho has now taken his career haul to 22 trophies – this his third league triumph with Chelsea – but he watched Alan Pardew’s men start the match with real gusto, determined to spoil the Blues’ big day.

Chelsea midfielder Ramires was forced to go to hospital and was replaced by Juan Cuadrado in the starting line up, with Mourinho saying after the game: “Ramires went to hospital because he was feeling so bad.”

Wilfried Zaha was causing Branislav Ivanovic all sorts of problems down the left flank, but his final ball deserted him when it mattered most.

Jason Puncheon had a great chance to break the deadlock, but his fierce effort from the edge of the box was blocked at the last by John Terry, with cries for handball falling on deaf ears.

Chelsea struggled to get going, but it was their talisman Hazard who earned his side a glorious chance to take the lead on the stroke of half time, drawing a foul from James McArthur in the box, even though there was debate about the extent of the contact.

Hazard stepped up himself, but his laid back penalty-taking style let him down, Speroni standing firm to keep the ball out.

The PFA Player of the Year remained unfazed, though, and headed in the loose ball on the stroke of half-time to move the Blues another step closer to the title with games to spare.

After the break, Chelsea were content to keep the ball and run down the clock, but Palace refused to give up.

Puncheon fired just wide with Thibaut Courtois beaten, while the Belgian stopper was out quickly to smother at the feet of the dangerous Zaha.

Didier Drogba did well to create space for a strike at goal in the box, but he scuffed his effort just wide with the goal gaping.

Willian also fired wide with Speroni beaten, and that elusive second goal meant it was anxious final ten minutes at the Bridge.

Palace pressed right to the end but Chelsea – with John Obi Mikel and Kurt Zouma called upon as late defensive reinforcements – held on and jubilant celebrations began.

Player ratings

Chelsea: Courtois 7, Ivanovic 7, Cahill 7, Terry 7, Azpilicueta 6, Cuadrado 5, Matic 7, Willian 6, Fabregas 7, Hazard 7, Drogba 6.

Subs: Filipe Luis 6, Zouma 6, Mikel 6.

Crystal Palace: Speroni 6, Mariappa 6, Dann 6, Delaney 7, Ward 6, Ledley 6, McArthur 6, Puncheon 7, Mutch 6, Zaha7, Bolasie 6.

Subs: Kelly 6, Sanogo 6, Murray 6.

Man of the Match: Nemanja Matic

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