As the clock struck 28 minutes, captain for the day Didier Drogba’s number came up on the fourth official’s board indicating a somewhat subdued end to a glorious career with the Blues. He was carried off the pitch by his teammates being applauded by everyone, including the travelling Sunderland fans and players. At the time of his substitution, Sunderland had gone 1-0 up thanks to an opportunistic finish with the head by Steven Fletcher.
It was never in doubt though, Chelsea came back with 3 goals from their two main strikers, Loic Remy bagging a well deserved brace. In the end, it wasnt about the sccoreline or the nature of the victory today, it was all about John Terry lifting that Barclays Premier League trophy to officially begin the Blues’ reign as champions of England.
It had a typical end-of-season feel to it, but the game was anything but a dull affair. The visitors picked a strong side to begin this match, with only Lee Cattermole of the regular starters being benched. Jack Rodwell started in his place in front of a back four that had kept 3 clean sheets in the past 3 matches. Goalscorer Fletcher would be leading the line for them, with the brilliant Jermain Defoe supporting him from just behind. After months of tension in the dressing room about the results and the direction the club was headed in, the Black Cats played with freedom and deserved to take the lead in the 26th minute of the game.
Having wrapped up the title 3 weekends ago, the party had already begun in the aisles at Stamford Bridge and the match and the result was a mere formality. Or so it seemed. Probably starting with his strongest Chelsea lineup since that day 3 weeks ago, Eden Hazard started and completed the full 90 minutes in spite of being a doubt before the game. A first-choice back four was ably supported – for perhaps the last time – by Petr Cech, who started in goal. Drogba was given the honour of leading his beloved Chelsea on to the pitch for the last time as a Blue, saluted by Sunderland and its players – who duly stood in the guard of honour.
Drogba was carried off the pitch by his teammates as a sign of respect
The first half was a fast-paced, entertaining affair with both teams having nothing to lose, went for the goals. Although Chelsea looked more threatening in that half, it was Sunderland who created the better chances and even made Cech earn his money by producing a few decent saves. A rare mistake by Terry at the far post meant the Fletcher ran in behind and duly tapped home with his head on the stroke of the 26th minute. It stunned the home crowd into silence, only to be made to stand on their feet a few moments later for the Drogba farewell.
Among the starters who played well- was unfortunate to go off injured later – Juan Cuadrado looked the most dangerous Chelsea player in the half. It was no surprise then that it was his drive into the box that enticed John O’Shea to put his leg out and bring the Colombian to the ground. The referee immediately pointed to the penalty spot which was duly converted by crowd favourite Diego Costa, who had replaced Drogba – from what it looked like, on the pitch and off it too. A passing of the baton, if you will.
Glimpses of Hazard’s genius were visible throughout the match, but one particular move got the normally subdued crowd at Stamford Bridge to stand up and applaud. He drove at the heart of the Sunderland defence, in what has now become a familiar sight, and played in a delightful ball to Remy. The Frenchman too did everything correct, except finish the move as he could only fire wide. The crowd could only applaud in awe at the world class Belgian, who is increasingly looking like he is going to be the best in the world sooner rather than later.
As the 70th minute approached and Remy scored his first and Chelsea’s second, the celebration could well and truly begin. Cherry on top of the icing on top of the cake happened when the Frenchman converted a tap-in to the near post off a cross from another crowd favourite, Nemanja Matic, to make it 3-1 to the Champions.
And 3-1 it ended, not that it mattered to the fans, who were already singing songs and serenading each player on the pitch well before the match even began. As the class of 2005 watched on, Chelsea were about to be crowned Champions of England for the fourth time, third under Jose Mourinho. To the chants of “Boring, Boring Champions” and “We know what we are, champions of England”, the borough of Kensington and Chelsea is going to see a Blue party which could well continue into the morning.
As each Chelsea player walked in to receive their respective medals, the most cheered were the ones who were leaving the club – Didier Drogba and possibly Petr Cech. The loudest, however, was reserved for the one who has played every minute of every match this season in the Premier League, and by leading his side to their fourth title, equaled the legendary Roy Keane. John Terry, who has probably had his best season ever in a Chelsea shirt, hoisted the trophy in the air to confirm what we have already known for the past three weeks, Chelsea are the new champions of England.
Author’s notes: Special mention for Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard who also said goodbye to the Premier League today. Two of the best midfielders of their generation, and stalwarts at their respective clubs, Frank and Steve have helped make the Premier League what it is today. Thank you for the memories, legends. The English game is poorer without you, but hope to see you both back soon. Farewell.