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Sports

Chelsea claim English Premier League title

media Jose Mourinho has led Chelsea to three of their four English Premier League titles Reuters/John Sibley

Chelsea won the English Premier League on Sunday afternoon following a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace. Belgium international Eden Hazard got the only goal of the game just before half-time. It was Chelsea's fourth Premier League crown and their fifth English championship.

Eight years ago the Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich started to run with the opinion that his manager Jose Mourinho wasn't up to much.

True, the self-anointed 'Special One' had claimed back-to-back English titles in 2005 and 2006 but the actual stuff on the field was hardly exhilarating. Over in Spain Barcelona's tiki-taka combinations were gaining the accolades as the aesthete's first port of call.

Chelsea? Well, they win. But that's all. Exit Mourinho in 2007 to the shock of the fans and enter a raft of managers who all found that pretty passing patterns and success weren't an easy trick to pull off.

Meanwhile what of Mourinho? At Inter Milan there was the 2010 Uefa Champions League, the Serie A title and the Coppa Italia. When he went to Spain to oversee Real Madrid, he managed to needle Barcelona out of a Spanish title.

Back at Stamford Bridge only Carlo Ancelotti had succeeded in stepping out of Mourinho's shadow, guiding Chelsea to a Premier League and FA Cup double in 2010.

Since then Chelsea, in all honesty, made the most of their luck on their way to the Uefa Champions League trophy in 2012 and the Europa League in 2013. But each of those triumphs under Roberto di Matteo and Rafael Benitez respectively could hardly be described as well designed.

Since the start of the 2013-2014 season and Mourinho's second incarnation at Chelsea, the Portuguese has fashioned a set of men for all seasons of the campaign - especially this one. Rugged, obdurate and gritty in the deep midwinter; poise, panache and purpose in the rites of spring.

They have all shown themselves to be in full control of their sphincters in what the legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson dubbed "squeaky bum time".

Where other sides have suffered blow-outs in the title run-in, Mourinho's players have been strong. Where others have faltered, Chelsea have soldiered on.

Manchester City were level on points with the Londoners after Chelsea were cut to pieces 5-3 on 1 January by Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.

But Manuel Pellgrini's defending champions crumbled in April. Setbacks at Crystal Palace and Manchester United were particularly costly in the hunt to retain their title.

Alan Pardew, the Crystal Palace manager, alluded to Chelsea's resilience after his side had failed to spoil the party at Stamford Bridge.

"That's why Mourinho earns the money he does," oberved Pardew. "He wins. He wins trophies and he will win them in any manner he thinks is right for that particular occasion.

"It will have to be a very good side that tops this team next year and I'm sure Jose will add to his depth as well."

A 1-0 victory over a Crystal Palace side in mid-table was hardly a pyrotechnic prelude to the coronation ceremony. But Sunday afternoon's result against Palace was as apt as it was symmetrical. It was about one goal. Victory.

"Crystal Palace were fantastic with the way they have played," Mourinho told reporters after the game. "They were like they need the game to be champions or to not be relegated."

The 52-year-old added: "For a team that is middle of the table that is fantastic and is the nature of football here in England. From day one to today, nobody gave us anything. Everything we got we deserved."

Last Sunday at the Emirates after Chelsea had neutered Arsenal for a 0-0 draw which left the west Londoners 10 points ahead of their north London rivals, the home side's fans chanted: "boring, boring Chelsea".

Mourinho's response was merely to highlight that Arsenal's last Premier League title dated back to 2004. That, he jibed, was boring.

Skipper John Terry was equally withering. "Possession and tippy-tappy football's great," said the 34-year-old. "But if you are not winning games, you're not going to win the league."

While Chelsea's squad prepare for their holidays, Arsenal's men have to concentrate on ensuring a place in the top three in the Premier League and the vagaries of an FA Cup final later this month at Wembley against a resurgent Aston Villa.

And as Mourinho's men add title medals to their trophy cabinets, they do so flashing a dazzling array of statistics. They boast the division's meanest defence: breached 27 times in 35 games. They've scored 69 goals - one less than the 2014 champions Manchester City and Chelsea's goal difference is +42.

The taunting hordes at Arsenal know their belligerence is merely the bluff and bluster of the beleaguered.

Questions will be posed as to whether Mourinho really will be able to consolidate this success, in contrast to his previous stint at Stamford Bridge.

But for now, the Premier League title is the second piece of silverware this season. In March, Chelsea won the League Cup after disposing of Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in the final at Wembley.

The only blemishes on the season are the 4-2 FA Cup defeat at home to Bradford City after leading 2-0 and the loss on away goals to Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 of the Uefa Champions League.

Still, two out of four ain't bad if you're a Chelsea fan. And since one of the pots is the league championship, it's then a question of what they say to their mates who support the Arsenal.

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