Before JT et al could get their hands on the premier league trophy; there was first the matter of our final match of the season against Sunderland. Although it was a dead rubber of a fixture with Sunderland already safe and Chelsea already crowned champions, it was an entertaining affair that saw a better performance from Chelsea than in the last matches we have played since wrapping up the title.
There were a couple of sentimental selections in our starting line up. Petr Cech kept goal in what was likely to be his final appearance for Chelsea after an exemplary career at the club. Likewise for Didier Drogba. He started at centre forward, having declared prior to kick off that he would be leaving at the end of the season. The back four was our most used of the season, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry and Azpilicueta. Mikel replaced the suspended Fabregas next to Matic. Cuadrado started on the right with Willian and Hazard filing the remaining positions.
From the off Chelsea controlled possession, Sunderland unable to play into their midfield and retain the ball. Pressure from the front forced them into misplaced passes, and Larsson appeared to be their only player able to keep the ball under pressure. They did have the first meaningful effort of the match though. Defoe was fouled as the ball was played to him left of the penalty box. Larssons bending near post effort forced Cech to punch away. At the other end Ivanovic fired wide as the ball found its way to him in the box.
Sunderland grew into the first half and carved chances out around twenty minutes in. Neat interplay by Defoe and Fletcher dragged Ivanovic inside and ex Chelsea man Van Aahnholt found him self free in the box on the left but dragged his shot across goal. Defoe got in round the back down our right shortly after and called Cech into a smart saves down at his near post.
Chelsea seemed to build attacks best when switching the ball quickly from one side to the other in the first half. Sunderland played with quite a narrow midfield, and didn’t control the overlapping of Ivanovic well. Hazard switched play with one such ball, perfectly executed from left of the box to Ivanovic on the other side of the area but further back, who controlled and fired at goal, forcing Mannone into a good save to tip away for a corner.
These switches of play as well as the interplay between Willian and Hazard seemed to have us on the front foot, but it was Sunderland who struck first. A Sunderland corner was flicked on at the near post by Johnson and found Fletcher a couple of yards out at the back post to nod home.
Four minutes later came one of the most endearing moments of the season. Drogba was substituted for Costa, but every single outfield Chelsea player ran over to carry Didier from the Stamford Bridge pitch in his final match for us. The ground stood to a man to applaud off one of the greatest strikers this club has seen. 164 goals bagged, and many a great memory instilled.
Costa was on the score sheet within seven minutes. Cuadrado received the ball in the area on the right, took one touch passed O’Shea, who brought him down for a nailed on penalty. Costa tucked it into the bottom left corner for his twenty-first of the season, and his twentieth in the premier league.
Defoe had been lively on the right, and fired across Cech’s bows to end the half. Cuadrado was replaced shortly before the break, an injury to his right knee incurred after a Rodwell challenge on half way in front of the west stand that saw his name taken. Remy took his place.
The second half began with Chelsea camped in the Sunderland half, Matic had a great early chance in the same manor with which Sunderland netted, but he headed over at the back post. Hazard was playing predominantly through the middle now, dropping off to receive the ball with his back to the midfield pairing of Larsson and Rodwell, and turning them with ease time after time, he then had space to run at their backline. No one could live with him, and we controlled the midfield as a result. One such move saw him turn in one movement and take the ball passed their whole midfield within three touches, he back heeled to Remy who burst through the back line, but his touch bounced of a defender back onto him and out for a goal kick. Hazard was now running the show. Another turn and run followed by a pass to Willian, making use of the space vacated by players desperately trying to stop Hazard, resulted in a shot just wide.
Sunderland couldn’t link their midfield to their attack, Wickham played just of from Fletcher but both received poor service. Fletcher headed wide and Wickham forced Cech into a low save after he was found in the box, but that was the extent of their threat.
With twenty left to play Hazard produced another exquisite display of balance and vision to find Remy on the edge of the area, who’s shot seemed to wrong foot Mannone and we had the lead.
Andreas Christensen replaced Mikel in midfield, and the last fifteen minutes was just a question of how many we would score.
Remy managed to add a third with two minutes to play, Matic was found on the left as we broke forward, and Remy converted at the near post from his low cross.
And so the party could begin. Mourinho did a solo lap of honour after the trophy had been lifted, then let the players take the limelight as the Stamford bridge crowd lapped up the opportunity to see the league title back in the hands of London’s finest.
Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta;
Mikel, (Christensen 78), Matic, Cuadrado, (Remy 44), Willian, Hazard;
Drogba ©, (Costa 30).
Mannone; Jones, Coates, O’Shea, Van Aanholt;
Johnson, (Giacherrini 75), Rodwell, Larsson, Defoe