Chelsea clinches Premier League title after 1-0 win vs. Crystal Palace
LONDON (AP) — Chelsea won the Premier League for the first time in five years on Sunday, securing the title with three games to spare with a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace.
The title-winning goal came from Eden Hazard, a week after the Belgium winger's dynamic, individual displays were honored 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.
The scrappy, slender win encapsulated Chelsea's recent performances but it was enough to establish an insurmountable lead and dethrone Manchester City, having spent the entire season at the summit.
"When you go five years without winning it ... it hurts so we're going to enjoy it," Chelsea captain John Terry said as the blue and white streamers descended on the Stamford Bridge field.
Chelsea will have to wait until the final day of the season here against Sunderland before the trophy can be collected but they can already start celebrating the domestic double.
The team also won the League Cup in March and Jose Mourinho's third Premier League title success confirms that the Portuguese coach is back at the pinnacle of management in England.
"This is unbelievable, we've worked so hard this year to get over the line," Terry said. "Today was a tough match, a little bit nervous, but we got over the line and we are champions."
It is only Chelsea's fifth English title in the 110-year history of the club, whose fortunes were transformed following the 2003 takeover by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.
Chelsea had only won the topflight once in its first century — in 1955 — when Mourinho delivered the Premier League title in 2005.
Mourinho defended the title in 2006 before losing a power struggle with Abramovich the following year and going off to win titles for Inter Milan and Real Madrid before being welcomed back to Stamford Bridge in 2013.
During Mourinho's six year-absence, Chelsea won the league only once in 2010 under Carlo Ancelotti and the Portuguese manager returned to a Chelsea with the club's finances now constrained by UEFA Financial Fair Play rules.
Chelsea has spent around $340 million on players in the last two years, but around $250 million was recouped by outgoing transfers. And perhaps the most significant addition was Diego Costa, who was brought in to bolster the strike force.
The $52-million striker's 19 league goals between August and March propelled Chelsea to the summit. His recent absence with a recurrence of hamstring problems has coincided with the team losing some of its early-season swagger.
Former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas, recruited from Barcelona last year, has also faded in the second half of the season but his assists in the first half of the campaign provided the impetus for the title charge.
Mourinho has been angered by accusations that Chelsea is boring, but pragmatic tactics saw off any threat from Arsenal and City while relying on 37-year-old striker Didier Drogba up front recently.
At the bedrock of the triumph has been Chelsea's sturdy defense, which has conceded a league-low 27 goals.
The back four has been anchored commandingly by Terry, the 34-year-old who has enjoyed a late-career revival under Mourinho. He was key to preventing Palace grabbing an equalizer in a nervy conclusion on Sunday.
"I'm still fighting, I'm still in the side, I'm feeling great," Terry said.