Super sub Michy Batshuayi is Chelsea's title-clinching hero
Second-placed Tottenham’s loss at West Ham last Friday and Chelsea’s 3-0 defeat of Middlesbrough on Monday meant the Blues needed three points from three games to clinch the championship.
Manager Antonio Conte wanted to secure the trophy at the earliest opportunity and Batshuayi was an unlikely hero after 82 minutes at The Hawthorns.
Batshuayi was not even among the substitutes on Monday and is still to make a Premier League start.
The Belgium striker, a £33 million signing from Marseille last summer, made his 18th Premier League appearance off the bench and finally showed his poacher’s instinct, seven minutes later, with his second league goal to send Chelsea and Conte delirious.
Chelsea had dominated possession, but the quality of their patient build-up was not matched by the final ball. And Albion caused the visitors some anxiety on the break.
Baggies goalkeeper Ben Foster made a fine save to deny Victor Moses early in the second half before Batshuayi’s decisive intervention.
The win saw Chelsea take an unassailable ten-point lead over Spurs with two games to spare and clinched the Blues’ fifth Premier League title in 13 seasons. And they will seek to complete a double in Conte’s first season by winning the FA Cup final against Arsenal on 27 May.
Despite leading Chelsea’s rejuvenation after last season’s tenth-place finish, Conte’s future remains far from certain, with Inter Milan coveting the former Juventus and Italy boss. He now has four consecutive domestic titles after three with Juve.
The 47-year-old appears likely to be offered an improved contract, 12 months into the three-year deal he signed on joining last July, but on Thursday suggested he wanted his “real value” to be recognised.
N’Golo Kante has been a key figure in Chelsea’s resurgence, but the midfielder had to settle for a place on the bench after recovering from a thigh problem as Chelsea were unchanged from the Middlesbrough game. Kante was unused but he is the first player since Eric Cantona in 1992 and 1993 to win successive titles with different clubs.
John Terry was also not required, but the 36-year-old club captain will leave Chelsea this summer as a five-time Premier League champion.
Conte had warned Chelsea not to be complacent and, in the opening seconds, Thibaut Courtois had to be alert to tip over a header from Salomon Rondon.
With Cesc Fabregas pulling the strings, Chelseas fashioned several chances but the first half ended goalless.
Chelsea resumed on the attack and Foster did well to turn Moses’ effort away for a corner and Cesc Fabregas shot wide. An Eden Hazard cross was diverted towards his own goal by Craig Dawson, but substitute Claudio Yacob blocked.
Hazard and Pedro were replaced by Willian and Batshuayi as Chelsea sought a different threat with 15 minutes to go. And Batshuayi pounced when Gary Cahill’s sliced shot was centred by Cesar Azpilicueta to spark the title celebrations.