Jose Mourinho has the Blues can finally breathe easy as they clinch the Premier League title thanks to a goal from Eden Hazard just before halftime.
Hazard missed his first penalty in English league play, but slotted home the rebound before Mourinho shut up shop and Chelsea saw out the match without further issue. The win secures the top spot in the Premier League table, a claim Chelsea has held since August.
Chelsea owned an early chance as a forward ball went just over the head of Didier Drogba in the six-yard box, but Crystal Palace took the early initiative and looked to break down the league’s best defensive line. They held much of the meaningful possession in the opening 10 minutes, but failed to break through.
The home side then began to dominate possession, and thus got most of the chances for the next 20 minutes. A few times Chelsea caused Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni to look awkward coming out, and Drogba lashed a dangerous free-kick just before the half-hour mark that Speroni couldn’t collect cleanly, but the rebound bounced harmlessly away after a few nervy moments.
[ OFFICIAL: Chelsea clinch Premier League title in record fashion ]
Both sides poked and prodded, and things got touchy as referee Kevin Friend attempted to keep the match from boiling over, and issued a trio of first-half yellow cards. Finally one team broke through two minutes before halftime as the Blues worked a brilliant one-two move between Willian and Eden Hazard on the edge of the box.
The Belgian took the flick from Willian and was sandwiched by James McArthur and Adrian Mariappa, and an oustretched boot from McArthur cut him down. Hazard took the penalty, and although his very weak effort was saved by Speroni for his first penalty miss in 10 career Premier League efforts, the rebound popped up perfectly for him to bury into the corner with his head for the lead.
[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]
With the lead, Mourinho shut things off earlier than usual by bringing on John Obi Mikel straight out of halftime and passing Crystal Palace to death, leaving them without a kick on the ball for much of the second half and content to simply lull the visitors to sleep.
It took 20 minutes after the break for Crystal Palace to find any kind of way through, as Wilfried Zaha delivered a dangerous cross towards Glenn Murray that required a significant tackle by Gary Cahill. Chelsea still did attack when they found space, with Cahill and Branislav Ivanovac both unleashing shots with 10 minutes to go but the initial effort was blocked and Ivanovic’s powerful follow-up was well high. Drogba flashed wide moments later, as did Willian.
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With just three games to play, Chelsea has 83 points, 16 more than Manchester City behind them and more than enough to be sure of a fourth Premier League title for the Blues.
Chelsea: Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Matic; Cuadrado (Mikel 46′), Willian (Zouma 85′), Fabregas, Hazard (Felipe 90′); Drogba.
Goals: Hazard 44′
Crystal Palace: Speroni; Mariappa (Kelly 60′), Dann, Delaney, Ward; Ledley, McArthur; Puncheon (Sanogo 71′), Mutch (Murray 61′), Zaha; Bolasie.