Chelsea were crowned Premier League champions as Michy Batshuayi’s late goal gave them the victory they required to secure the title at West Brom.
It looked as though Antonio Conte’s side might be forced to delay the celebrations as they were frustrated for long periods by the resilience and organisation of the Baggies.
But the mood changed and the title was won with eight minutes left as substitute Batshuayi, who had previously endured a season of struggle after his £33m summer move from Marseille, ended a scrappy passage of play by steering a finish high past Ben Foster.
The final whistle sparked wild celebrations among Chelsea’s fans as manager Conte was tossed high into the air by his squad.
The Italian can now set his sights on emulating compatriot Carlo Ancelotti’s 2010 feat of winning the league and domestic Double as the Blues prepare for an FA Cup final against Arsenal at Wembley later in May.
Chelsea worthy champions
Chelsea’s celebrations were fully deserved – the culmination of a superb season’s work by Conte and his squad.
They had to work hard for victory against a West Brom side that demonstrated all the qualities that have made this such a satisfactory season for them but, as so often this season, Chelsea got the job done.
The Blues’ main attacking threats struggled to find a spark, with Eden Hazard’s frustration summed up with one long-range shot that went out for a corner, but Conte’s side found a way to win, illustrating once again why they are worthy champions.
The losses at home to Liverpool and at Arsenal in September that hinted at early struggles seemed an age away as Chelsea’s players were overcome with elation, as did the surprise defeat to struggling Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge and the setback at Manchester United.
Chelsea, even when not at their best, proved themselves the strongest and most complete side in the Premier League – and they proved it again on a night when they were tested.
Conte’s magic touch does it again
Conte’s fingerprints are all over this title triumph – and his sure touch was on show again to fashion the victory they needed to get over the line with two games to spare.
The Italian knew his side needed a catalyst to break down West Brom and it worked with the introduction of Batshuayi and Willian for Hazard and Pedro with 15 minutes left. It was Batshuayi, an outsider for so long this season, who was the match-winner.
Conte’s masterstroke should have come as no surprise given the manner in which he has marshalled his forces this season, particularly the crucial switch to a three-man defence in September that turned Chelsea’s season around and started a run of 13 straight league wins that led to the title.
No praise is too high for the 47-year-old, who took over a squad that looked broken after ending last season in 10th place and with the shadow of Jose Mourinho’s sacking still hanging over the club.
This was his ultimate reward.
Batshuayi comes out of the shadows
Batshuayi has been a misfit for much of this season but whatever the future holds for the 23-year-old, he will always have a goal that won the title to his name.
Before this game, he had only figured in 24 games, played for 579 minutes and scored five goals – his sixth makes its mark in Chelsea history.
‘This game typified Chelsea’s season’
Former England midfielder Jermaine Jenas told BBC Radio 5 live: “These celebrations are unbelievable.
“It is thoroughly deserved. They have been the best team this season.
“The changes Conte has made to change their season around can’t be underestimated.
“When their backs have been against the wall tonight, they defended well. This game typified Chelsea’s season. How many winners they have in their team makes them special.
“But tactically, individually, what Conte has done with these players and to bring them together is sensational.”
The stats behind Chelsea’s title win
- Chelsea won their sixth top-flight title and fifth in the Premier League era. Only Manchester United (13) have won more Premier League titles.
- Chelsea are the first club to win the English top-flight title on a Friday since Arsenal at Anfield in 1989.
- Conte is the fourth Italian manager to win the English top-flight title after Ancelotti, Roberto Mancini and Claudio Ranieri.
- Chelsea scored with their 23rd shot of the match at West Brom
- A Belgian player has scored the title-deciding goal in each of the past three Premier League seasons (Batshuayi v West Brom in 2016-17, Eden Hazard v Tottenham in 2015-16 and v Crystal Palace in 2014-15).