Chelsea celebrates title with 5-1 win over Sunderland
LONDON (AP) — Premier League champion Chelsea celebrated its title in style with a 5-1 victory over relegated Sunderland on Sunday.
For once the football took a back seat at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea fans bid farewell to John Terry as the club’s long-serving captain made his final home appearance.
Sunderland took a shock lead through Javier Manquillo but goals from Willian, Eden Hazard, Pedro and Michy Batshuayi’s late brace ensured Chelsea’s party wasn’t spoilt.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte fielded a strong lineup with the only notable alteration being the inclusion of Terry, who was making his 717th appearance for the club.
Terry was given a guard of honour by his teammates as he was symbolically withdrawn in the 26th minute - matching the shirt number he has worn throughout his 19-year professional career with the club.
“It was very important to find the right solution to celebrate a great champion, a great legend for this club, I think he deserved to start the game,” Conte said.
“We had to find the best solution to celebrate and make all the supporters involved. He deserved this guard of honor. It was great and I think the players recognise his career at Chelsea.”
In slightly bizarre circumstances, Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was asked by Chelsea striker Diego Costa to kick the ball out of play to ensure the Blues got the timing of its celebration correct.
“We knew it was happening. I think John Terry in his own deserves a great send off and he got it today,” Sunderland manager David Moyes said.
There had already been two goals by the time Terry departed. Sunderland full back Manquillo shocked the home side as he volleyed into the roof of the net after just three minutes.
But the Blues were level just five minutes later as Willian’s powerful strike squeezed past Jordan Pickford.
Sunderland limited Chelsea’s chances as the home fans entertained themselves by praising Conte with regular stadium-wide chants of ‘Antonio’.
Chelsea took the lead in the 61st minute through its best attacking player this season - Hazard.
Diego Costa chested down and played in Hazard on the left, who took the ball wide and powered his shot across goal and past Pickford.
The assist proved to be Costa’s final contribution as he was withdrawn - notably waving as he left the field, further fuelling rumours that he will leave the Premier League in a lucrative move to China this summer.
Pedro came off the bench to take advantage of Joleon Lescott’s poorly judged header back to Pickford before setting up Batshuayi to continue his strong finish to the season.
The Belgium forward then added another in stoppage time to crown a perfect afternoon for Chelsea.
After lifting the fifth Premier League trophy of his career, Terry struggled to contain his emotion as he addressed the club’s supporters.
He said: “Today is without a doubt one of the most difficult days of my life. Thank you will never ever be enough, but I’m going to come back here one day and I’m going to be supporting this team and the players for years to come.”
Chelsea has the chance to complete a domestic double when it faces Arsenal in the FA Cup final next Saturday.