Blues go where Eagles Dare
Written By: Robert Halter
A 3-1 victory by Chelsea at Leicester City, put the Blues in sight of the Premier League title as victory against Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge, beginning of May would put Chelsea at the eighty three points mark and secure the Premiership, with three games to spare. In the opening minute, Didier Drogba, could not apply a header to a floated ball in from Cesc Fabregas, with just Eagles shot stopper, Julian Speroni, standing in his way. On fourteen minutes, a timely intervention by Adrian Mariappa, kept out the resurging Eden Hazard, who had been played through by Juan Cuadrado, after a neat lay off by Branislav Ivanovic. Then two minutes later, Cuadrado fired over a shot which rocketed past the upright, after a sideways pass from Willian. But midway through the first half, the Blues edged closer after a bookable offence by Scott Dann on Cuadrado, and from a Fabregas looping free kick, Speroni punched the ball into the path of Nemanja Matic, on the right side of the area, but Speroni made amends with a near post block to prevent a close range effort by Matic, creeping in. On twenty six minutes, following an infringement by Jason Puncheon on Fabregas, a free kick was driven in by Drogba and again Speroni failed to get enough leverage from the palm of his hands, but fortunately for the Eagles keeper, the Blues were unable to capitalise on his second mistake. Ten minutes later, Chelsea kept on the ascendancy, with Cuadrado and Fabregas interlinking, before Drogba’s pull back was smashed wide of the mark by Cesar Azpilicueta. In the forty first minute, with Willian the creator on the left, Azpilicueta, tried a low strike but it was comfortably stopped by Speroni. Although the Blues were given a golden opportunity to break the duck, after Hazard was sandwiched in between Mariappa and James McArthur, who committed the foul, and after referee Kevin Friend pointed to the spot, Hazard’s penalty was initially saved by Speroni but Hazard headed home the rebound to give the Blues a 1-0 advantage, two minutes before the break. At half time, Chelsea replaced Cuadrado with John Obi Mikel. Ten minutes into the second half, Ivanovic powered in a shot which drifted past the left post, after collecting a pass from Fabregas. On fifty eight minutes, after the ball was pulled back from Drogba, a tamely hit effort by Mikel, rolled into the reach of Speroni. The Eagles then made a double swoop by replacing Mariappa with Martin Kelly and taking off Jordon Mutch with Glenn Murray taking over. But Palace were close to spoiling the party on sixty nine minutes, after a headed clearance by Gary Cahill, found the opposing Puncheon, whose sweetly struck drive from outside the area, whistled narrowly past the right post, before Puncheon was substituted for Yaya Sanogo. In the seventy ninth minute, as Joel Ward tumbled to the floor, he mistakenly found Ivanovic unmarked on the right side of the area, but the Serbian miscued the ball over the top. Within a minute, Drogba steered an effort past the right post, after Willian’s measured cross. Then the Eagles broke forward, when Yannick Bolasie’s ball over was headed on by Sanogo, but as Wilfried Saha, poached at the far post, Thibaut Courtois made an important stop to avert the danger. During a three minutes spell, the Blues threatened again, as Willian drove a shot past the right post, after being set up from Fabregas, before Willian made way for the late replacement, Kurt Zouma. After the Blues dealt with a Bolasie corner, the match winner and PFA player of the year, Hazard, received a hero’s farewell when Filipe Luis took over, as the Blues were the champions of England for the third time under Jose Mourinho, with celebratory scenes gracing London’s SW6 to mark Chelsea as the 2014/15 Premier League winners.