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Champs again: Blues make Devils see red

Imperious Chelsea were crowned champions of England once again when they emphatically crushed Man United, beating them 3-0 on Saturday.

india Updated: Apr 29, 2006 20:28 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Imperious Chelsea were crowned champions of England once again when they emphatically crushed the distant title hopes of closest rivals Manchester United, beating them 3-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

The Blues retained their English Premiership title thanks to a fifth-minute close-range header from France defender William Gallas, an excellent individual goal from man-of-the match Joe Cole in the 61st and an end-to-end move from Portugal defender Ricardo Carvalho 11 minutes later.

United needed to win to delay Chelsea's inevitable coronation but there was no stopping the party as the Blues stamped their authority all over English football.

England striker Wayne Rooney was stretchered off late on to complete their misery as the party kicked off in west London.

Chelsea were crowned champions for only the third time in their 101-year history.

It was the 11th time that the English title had been retained, and the fifth occasion in the Premiership— United having successfully defended the Premiership crown four times.

The win took Chelsea's unbeaten league run at Stamford Bridge to 44 matches, meaning they had gone manager Jose Mourinho's two seasons in charge undefeated at home in the Premiership.

Mourinho made four changes from the side that lost the FA Cup semi-final 2-1 to Liverpool. Petr Cech, Carvalho, Joe Cole and Arjen Robben came in for Carlo Cudicini, Asier Del Horno, Geremi and Hernan Crespo.

Louis Saha, back from an ankle injury, replaced top scorer Ruud van Nistelrooy in the United attack.

Chelsea got the match off to a flying start when Gallas nodded in from a right-wing corner, all forced by a crunching Frank Lampard tackle on Cristiano Ronaldo.

The England midfielder curtailed the Portugal winger's dribble which allowed Didier Drogba to surge forward and the Ivory Coast striker forced a corner.

Lampard floated into the penalty box and Drogba rose through the pack and headed the ball goalwards, where Gallas, left unmarked and onside by the defender on the line, directed the ball in.

That brought Chelsea fans leaping to their feet but Mourinho remained motionless on the bench before urging his players to likewise stay calm. The title was not yet won.

Moments later Rooney let the frustration get the better of him when he caught defender John Terry on the shin with a late challenge. However, the Blues captain eventually returned to his feet.

The visitors struggled to fashion any clear chances before Rooney wasted an excellent opportunity to level matters in the 22nd minute.

He surged through the Blues defence, nutmegging last man Paulo Ferreira to leave him clean through with only goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar to beat— but the England striker pulled his shot wide.

The Red Devils launched wave upon wave of attacks, but resolute defending from Gallas and Terry, aided by Claude Makelele dropping deep to help bring the ball out of defence, kept the League Cup winners at bay.

United midfielder John O'Shea directed a header just over the bar in first-half stoppage time as the visitors began to feel the clock ticking on their dream of spoiling Chelsea's day.

Chelsea had two good chances to extend their lead soon after the break. Drogba could not control a long ball into the box and then Cole sent a curling shot just wide.

But the England playmaker did not have to wait much longer to get on the scoresheet.

He brilliantly outfoxed the United defence, turning Rio Ferdinand, holding off Nemanja Vidic and outpacing Mikael Silvestre as he ran on to sidefoot past Van der Sar at the near post. This time Mourinho lept to his feet to celebrate.

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson sent on van Nistelrooy for Ronaldo with half an hour to go and Mourinho responded by introducing Damien Duff for Robben.

Then Carvalho started and finished a move to make it 3-0 and completely extinguish United's challenge.

He won the ball from van Nistelrooy in defence and Cole surged forward. Carvalho continued his run and Cole played him in inside the box where the Portuguese took one touch and blasted it past van der Sar.

Rooney was stretchered off in the 82nd minute after being challenged by Carvalho in the Chelsea penalty area. He was left holding his right foot and was down for some minutes before being taken off.

Not that many Chelsea fans cared— the party was already in full swing as the Blues completed a second successful title campaign under the management of the inimitable Mourinho and the financial benevolence of moneybags Russian owner Roman Abramovich.

Chelsea's top scorers: Frank Lampard (16), Didier Drogba (12), Hernan Crespo (10), Joe Cole (8), Arjen Robben (6), William Gallas (5), John Terry (4), Damien Duff (3), Michael Essien (2), Geremi (2), Eidur Gudjohnsen (2), Asier Del Horno (1), Ricardo Carvalho (1).

EPL's top scorers: 23 Thierry Henry (Arsenal), 21 Ruud van Nistelrooy (Manchester United), 18 Darren Bent (Charlton Athletic), 16 Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Robbie Keane (Tottenham Hotspur), 14 Marlon Harewood (West Ham United), 13 Yakubu Aiyegbeni (Middlesbrough), Craig Bellamy (Blackburn Rovers), 12 Didier Drogba (Chelsea), 11 Hossam Ahmed Mido (Tottenham Hotspur), Henri Camara (Wigan Athletic), 10 James Beattie (Everton), Alan Shearer (Newcastle United), Hernan Crespo (Chelsea), Collins John (Fulham).

Since the League began in 1888-89, the following clubs have won the title: (18) Liverpool, (15) Manchester United, (13)Arsenal, (9) Everton, (7)Aston Villa and Sunderland, (5)Newcastle United, (4) Sheffield Wednesday, (3) Huddersfield Town, Leeds United, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Blackburn and Chelsea, (2) Portsmouth, Preston, Burnley, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Derby County, (1) Sheffield United, West Bromwich and Nottingham Forest.

First Published: Apr 29, 2006 19:31 IST