Chelsea Bags the Title
Chelsea were officially crowned at 2016-17 Premier League champions after a hard-fought 1-0 victory over a stubborn West Brom side. After fruitlessly toiling for most of the match, Chelsea found the breakthrough with a close range effort from Michy Batshuayi. With the victory, Chelsea ends Leicester City’s reign as champions with two matches to spare.
Antonio Conte looks to preserve their momentum towards their title run by retaining the same squad that brought him a comprehensive victory over Middlesbrough, even with N’Golo Kante fit for tonight’s match. Thibaut Courtois remains the steady custodian of the Chelsea goal with David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta establishing that defensive wall in front of him. Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses patrol the flanks with Cesc Fabregas rewarded with another start alongside Menanja Matic at central midfield. Pedro, Diego Costa and Eden Hazard provide the attacking thrust in this 3-4-3 formation.
West Brom get lucky in the penalty area. Marcos Alonso was looking to set up Pedro down the left hand side. The former Barcelona forward manages to get himself to the byline, evading Craig Dawson before attempting a cross. The ball didn’t get far as it’s deflected by what appears to be Chris Brunt’s arm. Pedro protests but referee Michael Oliver pays no heed.
Chelsea attempt a clever set piece in an effort to get ahead. Cesc Fabregas looked to find chinks in the West Brom defensive shield by taking a short free kick to Pedro, who was lurking at the edge of the box. The forward looked to shoot but his effort was deflected by Jonny Evans, just wide off the near post.
The man given the chance conjures one for himself. Rather than orchestrating the play from deep, Fabregas looked to take matters into his own feet. The Spaniard cuts in from the wing, evading Sam Field. As he gets deep into the penalty area, he attempts a low drive through a couple of Baggies but he could only drag the effort wide off the far post.
The Baggies have been rather obdurate, so the Blues attempt to surprise them. Fabregas crafts another chance by picking out Victor Moses just right inside the penalty area. The Nigerian immediately goes for glory with his shot managing to get through the sea of defenders forcing Ben Foster into a save to keep the sides level.
Ben Foster is once again called towards the firing line. Pedro makes his move down the right hand side before picking out the rather subdued Diego Costa who was right smack in the middle of the penalty area. The Spanish striker goes for the theatrics as he tries an overhead kick but like his performance today, he could only conjure a lame imitation of the maneuver, as Foster fails to break a sweat over the attempt.
Another Spaniard threads in an exquisite pass in the Baggies penalty area. Having the chance to operate without much of the congestion, Cesar Azpilicueta picks out Diego Costa deep in the penalty area with his back towards goal. Costa attempts to spin but gets the ball stuck in his feet and loses his balance as Claudio Yacob arrives to dispossess the fallen striker.
Could a rarely used substitute bring the title to Chelsea? Azpilicueta makes a forward run to the right side of the penalty area before sliding in a cross to the substitute Michy Batshuayi. The Belgian stretches out to poke the ball past the diving Foster to finally break the deadlock and bring the Blues closer to the EPL crown.
After a pitch invasion, West Brom seems to have finally awoken from their match long slumber to test Chelsea’s nerves. David Luiz can sometimes be exposed as a sham of a defender and nearly pays the price for it late in the match. Darren Fletcher puts up a cross towards the far post where Salomon Rondon manages to peel away from his Brazilian marker and stabs in an attempt which forces Thibaut Courtois to a rare save in the fixture. Despite the drama that just unfolded, it was all for naught as the flag was raised for offside.
An amazing achievement by Antonio Conte to turn the club around after this talented squad went into free fall last season en route to a 10th place finish. That makes it back to back Italian managers guiding their clubs to the Holy Grail, with Claudio Ranieri masterminding the remarkable Leicester City run the season before. Another Italian in Carlo Ancelotti also brought Premier League glory to the club less than a decade ago.
Though Chelsea has won the crown, two more EPL fixtures await with Watford visiting Stamford Bridge within the next few days to cut their party weekend party short.