Chelsea 3 Sunderland 1: John Terry lifted the Premier League trophy after a campaign when Chelsea led from the front almost from day one.
Yet as successful as their season has been, there was also a sense of renewal at Stamford Bridge yesterday as Didier Drogba said farewell and Jose Mourinho began the task of plotting his team’s defence of the title.
A first-half penalty from Diego Costa — after Steven Fletcher had put Sunderland ahead — followed by two second-half goals from Loic Remy ensured the season finished on a high.
The afternoon was not without regrets though. Shortly before kick-off, Drogba announced he would be leaving the club this summer and his imminent departure was acknowledged when Mourinho handed the Ivorian the captain’s armband before the striker was chaired from the pitch by his team-mates after a brief, 28-minute appearance.
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Diego Costa became the fourth Chelsea player to reach 20 goals in a Premier League season after Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard.
Petr Cech was also included in the starting line-up for what was almost certainly his final appearance for the club, despite Mourinho restating his desire for the keeper to remain, cutting another tie with the team that delivered the club’s first championship for 50 years in 2005.
Since then, the trophies have come thick and fast and this was the club’s fourth title in a decade. And with Mourinho offering a greater sense of permanence than he did during his first spell at the club, it appears clear there are many more to come.
The manager’s impact during his two seasons back at Stamford Bridge has been immense. Mourinho brought stability last season before significantly improving the squad last summer to create a team that has won the title with ease as well as lifting the Capital One cup.
Chelsea have been positioned at the head of the table right from the publication of the first league table to the last, a total of 258 days.
They are the only team in the top four divisions to remain unbeaten at home and a total of just four defeats equals the record set by Manchester United in their treble-winning campaign of 1999.
Mourinho’s side completed the season without ever replicating the form that lit up the opening months of the season. But then they never had to.
The failure of their main rivals to sustain a challenge at the head of the table means the true quality of this side remains something of an unknown.
Next season will provide more evidence of this group’s standing in comparison with Mourinho’s previous teams.
The manager is likely to fine-tune this group, replacing Drogba and Cech and most likely adding a wide player following Juan Cuadrado’s unconvincing form so far. If the new recruits prove to be as successful as Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas have been since their arrival last summer, Chelsea domestic dominance will continue and they can expect to improve significantly on this year’s Champions League disappointment.
“It’s difficult to compare with the 2005 team and even after that,” said Mourinho. “Chelsea had fantastic players. This team is just at the beginning. It won the Capital One Cup and the Premier League. They have to win more to be better than that.
“You can win something in a certain moment in your career, and that’s it. Or, during your career, you can win on a regular basis. That’s what makes the difference between someone who is a champion and ‘the champions’. Let’s motivate them to go in that direction.” Fletcher headed Sunderland in front in the 26th minute but the visitors held the lead for just 10 minutes before Costa, on for Drogba, converted from the spot after Eden Hazard was fouled by John O’Shea. Remy put Mourinho’s side in front in the 70th minute before wrapping up the win two minutes from time.
Sunderland’s season was effectively over when they drew at Arsenal on Wednesday to confirm their survival. The future of manager Dick Advocaat remains unresolved and the Dutchman said: “Wait and see. It’s not up to me, because they offered me already two or three years. But I have to be honest to myself and to everybody what I will do for the future.
“It will be as quick as possible, because the club must know. They have to go on as well. One way or the other way. There’s no sense to discuss it now. Let’s wait till next week and then I’ll make the decision.”
CHELSEA (4-2-3-1): Cech 7; Ivanovic 7, Cahill 6, Terry 7, Azpilicueta 6; Mikel 6 (Christensen 78,6), Matic 8; Cuadrado 6 (Remy 43,6), Willian 7, Hazard 7; Drogba 6 (Costa 28,6).
SUNDERLAND (4-3-3): Mannone 6; Jones 7, O’Shea 5, Coates 6, Van Aanholt 6; Larsson 6, Rodwell 5, Johnson 5 (Giaccherini 75, 6); Fletcher 7, Wickham 6, Defoe 7.
Referee: L Mason 7
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