Chelsea helped by rivals' sheer ineptitude
(Marc Albrighton 45+3)
(Didier Drogba 48, John Terry 79, Ramires 83)
With a 3-1 away win over Leicester City, Chelsea marched towards the inevitable.
In yet another show of their tremendous tenacity and resolve, they came back from a 1-0 half-time deficit yesterday morning (Singapore time) with goals from Didier Drogba, John Terry and Ramires after the break.
One more victory will secure them the Premiership title, and they have four shots at it, beginning from Sunday's match against Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge.
Arsenal, the only team still with a mathematical chance of catching the Blues, are 13 points behind with five games to play. By now, there should be no doubts as to who will clinch the trophy.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has done it again through a philosophy that favours pragmatism over style.
But winning ugly didn't clinch Chelsea the league title this season. The sheer ineptitude of their title rivals did.
If it had looked too easy for the Blues, it was because Chelsea merely did their own thing. They sprung no surprises, they didn't do anything out of the ordinary.
They stayed terribly efficient and ground out the results when they had to, then enjoyed the scenery as the others fell off the cliff, one by one.
Questions will be asked of defending champions Manchester City's resilience and staying power. They have been so atrocious by their standards that this season is almost certain to be manager Manuel Pellegrini's last in Manchester.
The renaissance of Liverpool proved short-lived, cut short by star striker Luis Suarez's departure to Barcelona. Poor judgment in their transfer dealings added to the problem.
As a result, the Reds, who finished second in the league last term, pathetically saw the last of any realistic title hopes extinguished by last November.
Arsenal were expected to mount a genuine assault after shrewd purchases in recent summers.
Indeed, Chilean Alexis Sanchez took their game to another level, but they took far too long to warm up their engine. By the time they did, they were left with a mountainous task.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has the hardware in place, but it's the software that still needs beefing up.
Manchester United never quite got going until the last two months.
And yet, when the Red Devils were looking unstoppable a fortnight ago, they lost 1-0 to Chelsea to effectively surrender the title fight.
On the evidence of this season's performances, there remains plenty of work to do in their fragile backline before they can be considered serious contenders.
It wasn't exactly a bed of roses for Chelsea. They had to battle fatigue in the final straight of the campaign.
They kept Arsenal and United at bay in back-to-back games without a fully fit striker.
They had to put aside the disappointment of Champions League elimination at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain.
So, Chelsea had problems like everyone else too.
But the difference between Chelsea and the rest was that they overcame theirs with minimal fuss.
In a drawn-out battle, the wheat will always be separated from the chaff.
It surely isn't Chelsea's fault if the rest can't even put up a meaningful fight.
"The last team that we should be criticising are Chelsea. They are the ones that have gone on and done the job. If we’re criticising anybody it should be the pathetic attempt at chasing them."
- Gary Neville
Terry: Blues deserve respect
KILLER INSTINCT: John Terry (above, scoring Chelsea's second goal) credits Jose Mourinho for turning them into title-winning material.
John Terry insisted Chelsea deserve respect after he helped put them on the brink of the English Premier League title.
They will win the league with victory over Crystal Palace on Sunday following their 3-1 triumph at Leicester yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Didier Drogba, Terry and Ramires scored second-half goals to move the leaders 13 points clear in the table.
Arsenal fans labelled Chelsea "boring" during their goalless draw last Sunday but captain Terry believes the Blues and boss Jose Mourinho warrant more plaudits.
"I think we have to give respect to the players, and manager as well," the defender told Sky Sports.
"What he's done with this side in two years has been different class. He deserves a lot of respect.
"We were the best side by far before Christmas and I think the best side all season. We haven't had the best results recently because teams get behind the ball and make it difficult for us.
"But the players and manager deserve a lot of respect because we've been very good all year."
Drogba chipped in to claim the coverage the Blues have been getting as unfair.
"We wanted to make sure the Crystal Palace game would be the one to give us the league title so we pushed and scored fantastic goals," the Ivorian said.
"We don't get enough credit for the work we have been doing. We have been top of the league from the very beginning."
Chelsea can clinch their first title since 2010 at home on Sunday but Mourinho warned against premature celebrations.
"I cannot touch it, we need to win. We need two or three more points so I would say we need three points to be completely safe," said the Portuguese (above).
"I think we all had it in our mind to try to do it at Stamford Bridge. Today, the great motivation was exactly that.
"Stamford Bridge, they can't celebrate yet. If they want to celebrate they have to celebrate the League Cup.
"I hope they don't go there to celebrate, I hope they go there to play the match with us and push the team."
Marc Albrighton scored his first goal since 2012 - and first for Leicester - when the Foxes went ahead in first-half stoppage time.
Paul Konchesky also hit the post as the hosts matched Chelsea before the break but were denied a fifth straight top-flight win for the first time since 1963-64.
Andy King and Robert Huth were forced off injured in the first half but boss Nigel Pearson refused to blame the early changes.
He said: "I'm not a big believer in sitting here bemoaning what happens in games.
"I would say Chelsea played very well in the second half and their quality was apparent.
"Our players gave everything they had and sometimes things go for you and sometimes they don't.
"What's given us a chance to survive is the collective spirit we have.
- PA Sport.
BY THE NUMBERS
Chelsea have won four of their last seven Premier League games in which they have trailed at half-time.
Cesc Fabregas set up Ramires for Chelsea's third goal that allowed him to equal his personal-best tally of 17 assists in the Premier League since 2007-08. It is also just three off Thierry Henry's record of 20.
Chelsea centreback John Terry has scored in 15 straight Premier League seasons. He and David Unsworth are the joint-top scoring defenders in the EPL history with 38 goals each.
Manchester United won the 1999-2000 Premier League title by a record 18 points. Chelsea now have a 13-point advantage.