Saturday 10 December 2016

Hazard the hero as Chelsea close in on League crown

Dion Fanning

Published 19/04/2015 | 02:30

Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic and Nemanja Matic celebrate after last night’s win over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge moved Jose Mourinho’s side closer to the Premier League title. Photo: Ben Stansall
Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic and Nemanja Matic celebrate after last night’s win over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge moved Jose Mourinho’s side closer to the Premier League title. Photo: Ben Stansall

Chelsea will claim the Premier League for the first time in five years if they win their next two games after an attritional 1-0 win over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge last night.

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Louis Van Gaal left the stadium believing Manchester United were the better side but Chelsea are ten points clear of Arsenal and if they beat Arsene Wenger’s side next weekend, they will need only one more victory for Jose Mourinho’s third title at Chelsea and his first since he returned.

John Terry said afterwards that his side felt like champions but Mourinho didn’t agree.

“I’m not happy if John said that. We need eight points to be champions. Football is not about if, it’s not about almost. It’s about mathematics.”

Mourinho stuck to his line that Chelsea need eight points to win the title and nothing has been won yet.

But as he hailed his team, naming nearly every player, it sounded like a victory speech in some ways, even though there was also time to return to a theme of the season when he wondered what would have happened if it had been a Chelsea player, not Ander Herrera, booked for diving in injury-time.

He was indulged yesterday after a heavyweight contest which owed much to Manchester United’s approach.

Eden Hazard scored the game’s only goal seven minutes before half-time but until then, United had been the better side.

“I am not frustrated I am very proud of my team. We played the best match of the season but sometimes you can lose when you’re the better side,” Van Gaal said afterwards. “We are in a process and I see my team always growing and improving every week. It’s amazing how we have played here. It’s unbelievable how the result is one-zero. That’s football. It’s not like other sports.”

Van Gaal acknowledged what Mourinho wouldn’t: that the title is now Chelsea’s. “The possibility that they win the championship now is much greater now because the pressure is off.”

Chelsea’s players celebrated at the end as if something had been achieved. Mourinho said he understood if they were celebrating because they had beaten one of the biggest teams in the world or because they had worked hard all week and the game had unfolded as they hoped. But anything else was presumptuous, he insisted.

Chelsea will keep going but nobody will catch them now.

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