Belfast Telegraph

Chelsea secure Premier League title at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea 1 - 0 Crystal Palace

Mourinho declared Chelsea's title challenge over last season following a defeat at Selhurst Park and he was taking nothing for granted until the title was mathematically secure.

The Blues boss recalled Thibaut Courtois in goal, with Petr Cech dropping to the substitutes' bench, and was forced into a late change when Ramires fell ill.

Juan Cuadrado came in against a Palace team showing four changes following the loss to Hull and determined to delay Chelsea's coronation.

The pace was frenetic in the opening period, but there were few moments of quality and precious few attempts on goal.

Didier Drogba, up front again in the continued absence of Diego Costa, stung the palms of Speroni with a wickedly dipping free-kick after Cesc Fabregas had been fouled by Jason Puncheon.

Speroni scrambled clear under pressure from John Terry, who was then forced to throw his body down to deny Puncheon.

The Chelsea captain had deflected the ball into the path of the Palace playmaker, whose shot veered off Cesar Azpilicueta and hit Terry's shoulder and upper arm before going clear.

Terry was booked - just his second caution of the season - for a foul on James McArthur as Chelsea continued to struggle to get a grip of the contest.

So often this year the Blues have looked to Hazard for inspiration and incision.

The Belgium playmaker provided it when he exchanged passes with Willian before being sandwiched by McArthur and Adrian Mariappa to earn a penalty.

Replays suggested the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year, lauded for his attitude despite being the most fouled player in the league this season, may have gone down too easily.

Perhaps showing signs of nerves with his first Premier League title at stake, Hazard scuffed the resulting spot-kick.

Speroni saved, only for the Chelsea forward to send the goalkeeper the wrong way with a header from the rebound.

Mikel is usually sent on to close a game out and the Nigeria midfielder replaced the ineffective Cuadrado at the interval.

Chelsea kept possession, biding their time, with Branislav Ivanovic blasting wide from distance and Mikel engineered a chance after a one-two with Drogba, only for Speroni to save.

Palace continued to search for openings, but the last pass was frequently out of reach, such as when Wilfried Zaha tried to feed substitute Yaya Sanogo.

As Palace probed forwards, Chelsea continued to search for a second.

Ivanovic blasted over and Willian manufactured a chance for Drogba, but he could only fire into his standing foot and the ball spun wide.

Courtois saved from Zaha and Willian shot wide across goal on the counter-attack before making way for Kurt Zouma in another defensive change.

Palace fans responded by reprising the Arsenal chant from a week ago "boring, boring Chelsea".

Still Palace tried to upset their hosts, but the Blues held on.

Mourinho celebrated with his family behind the dugout at the final whistle as the ticker tape fell and the players soaked up the acclaim.

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