Friday 28 October 2016

chelsea bridge a long gap with title win

Mourinho hungry to go again for a fourth crown

Chelsea secured a first Premier League title in five years with a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge.

Jose Mourinho's side needed three points to claim the trophy with three games to spare and Eden Hazard headed in the rebound after missing a first-half penalty.

Mourinho's 21st trophy of his prolific career was the Capital One Cup win at Wembley in March - the first of his second spell at Stamford Bridge - and now the Portuguese has a third Premier League title and Chelsea's fourth in 11 seasons.

The self-proclaimed Special One delivered the first title 10 years ago - the 2004-05 win was Chelsea's first championship in 50 years - but domestic league success has eluded the Blues since Carlo Ancelotti led them to the 2009-10 title.

Chelsea entered yesterday's fixtures 13 points clear of Manchester City and Arsenal, the only team who could overhaul them as they have a game in hand.

It was a nervous opening for the champions-elect, with Palace determined to prolong Chelsea's wait for the title, roared on by a raucous visiting support which only served to remind Mourinho of his unhappiness at the home faithful this term.

Hazard has so often been Chelsea's saviour and once again provided the spark which led to Chelsea's penalty, although there was debate about the extent of the contact.

The Belgian's spot-kick was saved by Julian Speroni, but he headed in the rebound to settle nerves with his 19th of the season.

Mourinho reaffirmed his "more strategic, less artistic" approach of recent weeks by sending on John Obi Mikel at half-time and Kurt Zouma late on.

Some have labelled it "boring", but Chelsea and Mourinho cared not a jot as the Blues saw out victory and jubilant celebrations began.

The challenge of each of the Blues' rivals faltered at varying times and Mourinho knew the title was his side's to lose, but insisted on taking a game-by-game approach.

"We were convinced for a long time," he said

"Champions now. Not one hour ago, not yesterday, or a week or one month ago. Champions now.

"From that moment (the loss to Spurs), January, February, March, April, not one single defeat."

Mourinho is already targeting title number four, aware the margins between success and comparative failure are fine.

Mourinho said: "I will try (for) another one. The day I don't feel that passion to try to do it again, I stop. I don't feel that day is arriving.

"(But) I think top four in this country, for the top teams, is the first target."

Ramires was a late withdrawal from the Chelsea side through illness and went to hospital to be assessed.

Mourinho said: "Ramires went to the hospital, he was feeling so bad."

Palace boss Alan Pardew felt the penalty award was "questionable" and that his side might have had their own spot-kick when John Terry blocked a Jason Puncheon shot, with the ball hitting the Blues captain's shoulder and upper arm before going clear.

"I do feel a little bit hard done by," Pardew said.

"It was kind of questionable. Then they get another break when he misses it and it goes straight to him. (But) it's not about us today. They've obviously done the job. Sometimes fantasy and flair goes out the window to do the job to win."

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