Chelsea sparkled and the champagne flowed after an 8-0 demolition of Wigan Athletic which brought the Premier League trophy back to Stamford Bridge on Sunday after three seasons of Manchester United domination.
Didier Drogba netted a hat-trick to finish top of the scoring charts and Carlo Ancelotti’s side recorded the club’s biggest top-flight win to edge an intriguing title race by one point from Manchester United, who beat Stoke City 4-0.
United’s finale was marred by angry protests by fans against the club’s American owners and a groin injury to England talisman Wayne Rooney which will concern Fabio Capello two days before he names his provisional World Cup squad.
But it was Chelsea’s day with two goals for Nicolas Anelka and one apiece for Frank Lampard, Salomon Kalou and Ashley Cole taking their league tally to 103, the first side to pass the century mark in the top flight since Tottenham Hotspur in 1963.
Ancelotti, so under-stated during his first season in English football after 33 years as a player and coach in Italy, could hardly contain himself as he danced around the pitch with the trophy.
The beaming Italian, who prevented United winning a record 19th league title and a fourth in succession, can complete the double in next week’s FA Cup final against Portsmouth.
“We played with continuity. We played as a team and at the training ground the players always did a good job,” Ancelotti said.
“It was time for Chelsea to win the title, but Manchester United and Arsenal were fantastic rivals.”
Captain John Terry, whose season has been blighted by unsavoury publicity about his extra-marital activities, said three years of pain were over.
“It’s been a hard three years watching United win the titles year after year,” he said before being presented with the Premier League trophy for the first time since Jose Mourinho was Chelsea manager in 2006.
“It’s their turn to watch us today. Now we’ve got it back we want to do what they did. It’s been an up and down year but this is what we’ve worked for.”
Chelsea, who have been English champions four times, racked up 17 goals in the three-game sprint to the finish line and Sunday was the sixth time this season they had hit five or more in a match.
“This right up there, the way we did it in style, it’s been fantastic,” Lampard said. “After not winning it for three years to come back and do it in style like we did today is superb.”
The only blot on the day was a show of petulance from Drogba when he barely celebrated Lampard’s penalty, the Ivory Coast striker upset that he had not been allowed the chance to go clear in the race for the Golden Boot.
All was smiles at the end, however, as Drogba joined his celebrating team mates after scoring a second-half hat-trick.
Any doubts that Chelsea would fluff their lines were wiped out by the half hour.
Anelka gave them a sixth-minute lead when he pounced on Florent Malouda’s chested pass and Lampard’s spot kick made it 2-0 after Gary Caldwell was sent off for hauling him down.
Kalou made it 3-0 and the rest of the game was purely a matter of whether Chelsea would hit the 100-goal mark and Drogba would beat Rooney to the Golden Boot.
Anelka rattled in a sublime fourth before Drogba got in on the act with a header, a penalty and a tap-in.
Cole completed the rout and all that was left to do was spray the champagne.
United did what they had to do, Darren Fletcher, Ryan Giggs and Park ji-Sung all on target, but were left to rue a home defeat by Chelsea in April that left their destiny out of their hands.
“We are disappointed but we know how difficult it is to win the Premier League, that’s why we can congratulate Carlo Ancelotti and his team,” United manager Alex Ferguson said.
“We have done well, we took it to the wire and it just wasn’t to be. I’ve got no complaints. Losing this makes you appreciate our feat in winning the last three titles.”
Arsenal made sure of a place in the group stages of next season’s Champions League with a 4-0 home win over Fulham to hold off a late challenge for third spot from Tottenham Hotspur who finished fourth after a 4-2 defeat at Burnley.
Manchester City drew 1-1 at West Ham United, Aston Villa lost at home to Blackburn Rovers and Liverpool, who just crept into the final Europa League place, drew 0-0 with relegated Hull City. -Reuters