Chelsea players celebrate winning the English Premier League title after the match against Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge, Sunday. (AP)
LONDON (AP) – The five-year drought is over. Chelsea are Premier League football champions again – with three games to spare.
Chelsea secured the title with a scrappy 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Sunday that encapsulated the recent cautious pragmatism of Jose Mourinho’s team.
But it was a trophy that was really won in the opening months of the season, with Chelsea having been atop the standings from day one. With only two losses in 35 games, Chelsea was rarely troubled in their pursuit of a fourth league title in 11 years – and the fifth in their 110-year history.
Fittingly, the title-winning goal came from Eden Hazard, a week after the Belgium winger’s dynamic, individual displays were honoured by his fellow professionals with the Player of the Year award.
Although Hazard’s uncharacteristically weak penalty kick was saved by Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni at the end of the first half, the Belgian headed in the rebound for his 14th league goal of the season.
The victory was enough to establish an insurmountable lead and dethrone Manchester City, which have now failed in both title defences since 2012 despite heavy investment from its Abu Dhabi ownership. Chelsea are 16 points ahead of Arsenal, which have five games left to play.
The team also won the League Cup in March and Mourinho’s third Premier League title success confirms that the Portuguese coach is back at the pinnacle of management in England.