Bridge bids a final farewell to teary Terry
Chelsea 5 Sunderland 1
John Terry got the send-off he wanted, Chelsea got their hands on the Premier League trophy and Thibaut Courtois and Cesar Azpilicueta achieved their personal milestones.
This was a day for those inside Stamford Bridge and to hell with the cynics outside.
Champions Chelsea comfortably secured a record 30th League win of the season against relegated Sunderland, but the game was largely a sideshow to the pre-planned party.
Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford agreed to punt the ball out of play in the 26th minute, so that Chelsea could form a guard of honour for their number 26, Terry, to be replaced by Gary Cahill.
Purists will still be complaining of the final game of the season descending into farce, but Chelsea's supporters who hung banners that read 'JT thank you for everything' and 'Captain, Leader, Legend' loved every minute.
With 717 Chelsea appearances to his name and the chance to earn a 16th winners' medal in next week's FA Cup final that he will most probably watch from the substitute's bench, Terry had earned the right to time his Stamford Bridge farewell just the way he wanted.
Having lifted the Premier League trophy with Cahill, Terry was given the microphone and it was no surprise that the tears flowed as he assured the Stamford Bridge faithful that, one day, he will be back.
"You've given me everything from day one, when I first started out," said 36-year-old Terry, who had his wife Toni and his children on the pitch.
"You picked me up when I was down, sung my name when I've had bad days and disappointed you as well. Thank you so much. I love you all."
After Sunderland manager David Moyes, who will have talks today about his future, had confirmed that Pickford had acted on the request of Diego Costa to kick the ball out and let Terry have his moment, Chelsea head coach Conte said: "I think this idea of all my players was a great way to commemorate an important career.
"The guy is a legend for this club, and one of the best defenders in the world. He deserved this.
"It was very important to find the right solution to celebrate a great champion and a great legend for this club. He wrote Chelsea's history. I wish, for him and for his family, the best in the future.
What was not in the script for what turned into a perfect day for Chelsea was Sunderland taking a shock lead in just the third minute, courtesy of Javier Manquillo.
But the home side quickly hit back through Willian before Terry went off and coasted to victory with second-half goals from Eden Hazard, Pedro and two from substitute Michy Batshuayi.
Azpilicueta completed 90 minutes, which meant the defender played every minute of every Premier League game for the champions and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois won the Golden Glove award.
The only moments the celebratory atmosphere was briefly interrupted surrounded Costa. He was booked after elbowing John O'Shea and then holding his own face, and was clearly annoyed when Conte decided to replace him with Batshuayi with half-an-hour remaining.
Costa waved to each side of the ground as he left the pitch and it remains to be seen whether or not the gesture was intended as a goodbye of his own. (© Daily Telegraph, London.)