LONDON: Chelsea have secured their first Premier title since 2010 and the third of Jose Mourinho’s two reigns at Stamford Bridge owing a significant debt to the old boys who brought him success first time around.
The Blues’ important equaliser in the midweek win at Leicester was delivered by 37-year-old Didier Drogba and the goal which put them ahead came from 34-year-old captain John Terry. It was his 38th goal for Chelsea, equalling the Premier League record for a defender set by David Unsworth – and 22 of the ex-Everton man’s goals came from penalties.
In midweek even Petr Cech was back in goal but Thibaud Courtois had recovered from injury and was in place again for today’s 1-0 London derby defeat of Crystal Palace.
Appropriately Chelsea secured the title in front of their own delighted fans at Stamford Bridge. One goal, Eden Hazard heading in after his penalty was stopped by Julian Speroni, was sufficient. Deliciously for Chelsea, this means that Liverpool’s players will be expected to provide a congratulatory ‘guard of honour’ when Chelsea emerge to face them, also at home, next Sunday.
At least Mourinho will be guaranteed warm congratulations from Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, a protege whom Mourinho promoted through the coaching ranks during his first spell at Chelsea. Rodgers is still learning from Mourinho, notably in how to maintain a firm, disciplined focus on the task in hand and shut out all the noisy distractions of daily life in Premier land.
Earlier this spring suspicions grew that Chelsea’s form was fading and that they might be overtaken if Arsenal or Manchester City could establish winning momentum. That was the point at which Mourinho switched into safety-first mode – enabled to do so by the wealth of experience the likes of Terry, Drogba and Cech had built up down the years.
Hence Chelsea have taken 16 points from their six games since the start of April and emerged unbeaten from a testing schedule including fixtures against two of the top four clubs and three of the teams fighting to avoid relegation.
Mourinho said: “I know April is the month where everybody was waiting for Chelsea to slip. But it was exactly in this month, a month with problems —without Diego Costa, without Loïc Rémy, with Oscar playing striker — where we were phenomenal.
“We’ve been tactically phenomenal with our team spirit, team ethic, the way we defended, the way we were clinical with our goals, the stability we showed in every game.”
The pragmatic approach – they have won five of their last seven games by a single-goal margin – has prompted a charge of “boring” from critics and opposing fans. But, as Mourinho responded in a swipe at Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, going 11 years without winning the league might also be considered “boring”.
Chelsea won their first trophy since Mourinho returned when they beat Tottenham 2:0 at Wembley in March for the League Cup. That was the first trophy collected by the Special One in his original stay in west London, setting a platform for two Premier titles (2005 and 2006) as well as the FA Cup in 2007.
Now, perhaps and with a new generation of winners, history could be about to repeat itself.
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