Hazard helps Chelsea clinch Premier League title against Palace
A controversially awarded Eden Hazard penalty, that he won, saw saved and subsequently scored from the rebound, allowed Chelsea to clinch their first Premier League title for five years, as they beat Crystal Palace at home.
Referee Kevin Friend pointed to the spot when Hazard slalomed infield and came between Adrian Mariappa and James McArthur. On first inspection, it did look a penalty, but replays illustrated why Palace players may feel aggrieved.
Named PFA Premier League Player of Year last weekend, Hazard made the most of minimal contact on the stroke of half time and went down in the area. This followed a tense, uneventful first 44 minutes where Jose Mourinho’s men worked rather than tested visiting Eagles keeper Julian Speorni.
Only a dipping Didier Drogba free-kick caused the Argentine goalie problems. Speorni subsequently saved Hazard’s weak attempt from the spot, but could only parry back to the Belgium sensation, who headed the rebound home.
Any hopes that Alan Pardew’s side could hit their hosts on the break were neutralised by a disciplined Chelsea back four, with pacy Palace attacking outlets Yannick Bolasie, Jason Puncheon and Wilfried Zaha peripheral figures.
Mourinho moved to shut up shop at the interval, bringing on Jobn Obi Mikel for late pre-match Ramires replacement Juan Cuadrado. This tactical switch hardly made this contest any more spectacular in the second half, but the Blues ground out another result to resume their place on top of the Premier League mountain.
Last-ditch blocks from Eagles defenders, Branislav Ivanovic lashing wildly over when in behind them and Dorgba’s miscue prevented the hosts from adding to their one goal. Thibaut Courtois had to snuff out an at best sporadic Palace threat throughout, but Mourinho’s men did their jobs and just enough once again.
While plenty has been written about the style and swagger being absent from Chelsea performances in 2015, punters and commentators alike cannot forget how the Stamford Bridge side played throughout the early months of this season.
Cutting edge without Diego Costa remains an issue, and his troublesome hamstring injury may reflect increased pragmatism from Mourinho during the run-in. Blue is the colour of the ribbons on the Premier League trophy, but it belongs to Chelsea now, not Manchester City.