Belfast Telegraph

In pictures: Linfield crowned Irish League champions for the 53rd time as defence holds firm once again

Linfield celebrate winning their 53rd Irish League title.
Linfield celebrate winning their 53rd Irish League title.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 13/04/2019 Linfield v Crusaders Danske Bank Premiership Linfield's Manger David Healy after becoming league champions after todays game at Windsor Park in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 13/04/2019 Linfield v Crusaders Danske Bank Premiership Linfield's Manger David Healy after becoming league champions after todays game at Windsor Park in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 13/04/2019 Linfield v Crusaders Danske Bank Premiership Linfield's Manger David Healy and Stephen Baxter after becoming league champions after todays game at Windsor Park in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 13/04/2019 Linfield v Crusaders Danske Bank Premiership Linfield celebrate after becoming league champions after todays game at Windsor Park in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 13/04/2019 Linfield v Crusaders Danske Bank Premiership Linfield celebrate after becoming league champions after todays game at Windsor Park in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 13/04/2019 Linfield v Crusaders Danske Bank Premiership LinfieldÕs Andy Waterworth , Ryan McGivern and Niall Quinn celebrate after becoming league champions after todays game at Windsor Park in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Linfield won the Danske Bank Premiership season and, with a European victory, could land over €1m as a result.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 13/04/2019 Linfield v Crusaders Danske Bank Premiership LinfieldÕs Andy Waterworth and Jamie Mulgrew celebrates after becoming league champions after todays game at Windsor Park in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 13/04/2019 Linfield v Crusaders Danske Bank Premiership LinfieldÕs Andy Waterworth and Jamie Mulgrew celebrates after becoming league champions after todays game at Windsor Park in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 13/04/2019 Linfield v Crusaders Danske Bank Premiership Linfield celebrate after becoming league champions after todays game at Windsor Park in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Linfield's manager David Healy after his side sealed the Irish League title.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 13/04/2019 Linfield v Crusaders Danske Bank Premiership LinfieldÕs Andy Waterworth and Jordan Stewart celebrates after becoming league champions after todays game at Windsor Park in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 13/04/2019 Linfield v Crusaders Danske Bank Premiership Linfield Manager Manger David Healy celebrates with his family after becoming league champions after todays game at Windsor Park in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 13/04/2019 Linfield v Crusaders Danske Bank Premiership Linfield Manager Manger David Healy celebrates with his players after becoming league champions after todays game at Windsor Park in Belfast. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Linfield's Ryan McGivern up against Crusaders' David Cushley on Saturday afternoon.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Linfield have won the Danske Bank Premiership title with three games to spare.

The Blues picked up a point to make certain sure of their 53rd league title in a 0-0 draw with Crusaders at Windsor Park on Saturday.

But in the end, the title was safe even before the full-time whistle. Once Ballymena had failed to beat Cliftonville at Solitude, drawing 1-1, the title was secure and the Linfield fans responded with chants of 'champions'.

The results keep David Healy's side 12 points ahead of Ballymena, but now with only three games remaining, they cannot mathematically be overhauled.

In their 35 league games played so far this season, Linfield have conceded only 21 goals and it's on that base that their title-winning side has been built.

It's a far cry from one year ago, when Linfield finished fourth in the league.

While the game in which they got over the line won't live long in the memory, some top saves from goalkeeper Gareth Deane fittingly summed up the season as Linfield's magnificent defence held firm once again.

Last season's champions Crusaders knew they could help to postpone the celebrations if they came away from Windsor Park with a win while Ballymena beat Cliftonville across the city. They seemed keen to do just that with a bright start, dominating the opening half.

Deane, however, was just as intent on sealing his side's 26th clean sheet of the season as he stopped Paul Heatley's well-struck drive.

The closest the Crues came to a goal was when Philip Lowry sneaked in for a close-range header but again Deane was on hand to stop.

He was beaten once before the break but by the time Ronan Hale swivelled to smash home an acrobatic finish, referee Ian McNabb had already blown for an infringement in the area.

The Blues created little at the other end before the break, their most notable attack ending when McNabb rightly waved away appeals for a penalty as captain Jamie Mulgrew went down.

Whatever Linfield boss David Healy said at half-time, it worked a treat as his side were much improved in the second period, even if Deane did have to pull off another top save to deny Heatley from a narrow angle after the restart.

Referee McNabb was soon pointing to the spot as Linfield won a penalty for a Howard Beverland handball.

However, the Crusaders defender was saved by his goalkeeper, Ger Doherty diving the right way to stop Jordan Stewart's spot-kick.

It took more heroics from the former Derry City stalwart to deny Ryan McGivern when the defender got on the end of Niall Quinn's corner from point blank range.

Substitute Stephen Fallon was then played in on the left and when he fired a low ball across goal, Daniel Kearns just missed the chance to get a telling touch.

But that mattered little to the home support, who erupted at full-time to cheer the 53-times Irish League champions.

Danske Bank Premiership results

Ards 1-1 Glentoran

Cliftonville 1-1 Ballymena United

Dungannon Swifts 2-1 Institute

Glenavon 1-1 Coleraine

Linfield 0-0 Crusaders

Warrenpoint Town v Newry City (5.30pm)

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