Chelsea lift fourth EPL title
Chelsea secured the Premier League title by beating Crystal Palace at an ecstatic Stamford Bridge today.
Jose Mourinho's side needed three points to complete the triumph that has become an inevitability in recent weeks as they moved out of sight of their rivals to reclaim the crown from Manchester City.
And victory was secured by Eden Hazard's goal on the stroke of half-time, the Belgian heading past Julian Speroni after the Palace goalkeeper had saved the PFA Player of the Year's penalty.
That gave Mourinho his third title as Chelsea manager, and the first of his second spell in charge. It is the club's fifth top-flight title and comes five years after their last and 60 years since their first.
The celebrations that swept around Stamford Bridge at the final whistle were fully deserved for a Chelsea side who have set the pace since the start of the season.
They played with flair and verve to make an all-conquering start then showed the ruthless efficiency that is the hallmark of all Mourinho sides after losing leading scorer Diego Costa for a crucial closing phase of the campaign.
At the head of it all was the master strategist Mourinho, adding the title to the Capital One Cup won against Tottenham at Wembley and vindicating Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich's decision to turn, once again, to the manager who brought him his first successes with titles in 2004-05 and 2005-06.
Banners were draped from the Shed End at Stamford Bridge in honour of Mourinho, bearing slogans such as: "The Special One - He's One Of Us." And while the Portuguese may be a divisive figure elsewhere, there is no doubting his heroic status at Chelsea after the successes he has engineered.
The statistics back up Mourinho's brilliance as this was his eighth title in 12 years with Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
This decisive victory over Palace may not have been achieved with sparkling football but the title win was closed out with the nerveless professionalism of a team that knew what needed to be done and did it - as they have so often.
And when it was done and hundreds of blue streamers littered the Stamford Bridge turf before Chelsea's elated players took a lap of honour with Abramovich looking on, the challenge was laid down to the chasing pack to respond to the domination Mourinho has now re-established in west London.
Chelsea's title win has been built on a mixture of the old guard, such as inspirational captain John Terry, who has rolled back the years magnificently, and the newer breed, such as the brilliant Hazard and those key summer signings Cesc Fabregas and Costa.
The chants of "Boring Boring Chelsea" - started by Arsenal's fans and repeated here by Palace supporters - carry a hollow ring as Mourinho's side have proved without question that they are the Premier League's outstanding side led by the Premier League's outstanding manager.
They were forced to make a late adjustment to their starting line-up when Ramires was taken ill and Juan Cuadrado was drafted in.
For all the energy on the pitch and expectation off it, the first half was a non-event until Hazard's penalty - apart from some wayward handling from Palace keeper Speroni, who fumbled Didier Drogba's free-kick having almost let in Nemanja Matic with a wild punch.
The deadlock was broken right on half-time when Hazard surged into the area before tumbling theatrically under James McArthur's challenge.
Palace clearly felt Hazard made the most of slight contact - which he certainly did - and their frustration increased when the Belgian reacted first after his penalty was saved by Speroni, heading the rebound past the stranded keeper.
There was the sense of the inevitable about proceedings as Chelsea moved towards a triumphant conclusion after the break, with only a Jason Puncheon shot that flew inches wide and a Wilfried Zaha effort that was blocked by Thibaut Courtois threatening to delay the coronation.
All the tension and pressure of the final few weeks were released when referee Kevin Friend blew his whistle, the normally impassive Abramovich punching the air as Chelsea returned to the pinnacle of the domestic game.