Michy Batshuayi secures Premier League title for Chelsea
West Bromwich Albion 0-1 Chelsea
Chelsea secured the Premier League title for the second time in three seasons as substitute Michy Batshuayi scored late to supply a 1-0 win at West Brom tonight.
West Brom had frustrated Chelsea for 82 minutes before Batshuayi forced the ball over the line with a sliding shot to give Chelsea an insurmountable 10-point lead over Tottenham atop the table.
Chelsea only needed three points from their final three games to clinch the championship, but manager Antonio Conte wanted to secure the trophy at the earliest opportunity and Batshuayi was an unlikely hero at The Hawthorns.
Batshuayi was not even among the substitutes in Chelsea’s last game on Monday and is still waiting to make a Premier League start.
The Belgium striker, a £33 million signing from Marseille last summer, made his 18th 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.
After West Brom’s Salomon Rondon forced Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois to tip over his bar in the opening seconds, the game settled down into a sluggish first half.
Chelsea had 71 percent possession before the break and took 14 shots, but they only managed to put a single attempt on goal — a Cesar Azpilicueta shot from distance.
The nearest the visitors came to taking the lead in the first half came in the 32nd minute when Cesc Fabregas flashed a shot inches wide of the post.
But Chelsea came out of the dressing room with renewed intent, and Victor Moses promptly forced West Brom keeper Ben Foster to make a diving save to preserve the deadlock.
Fabregas again tried his luck from distance in the 51st minute, only to see it slice away from the target at the last moment.
Moments later, West Brom were a bit fortunate when Eden Hazard’s cross from the endline deflected toward goal by Chris Brunt, only to be cleared off the line. And Moses followed that by blasting a hard shot directly at Foster.
On the hour mark, Diego Costa had space to control the ball from 12 yards out, but West Brom closed him down before he could spin and shoot.
West Brom had a rare moment of attack in the 70th minute when Rondon spun past David Luiz on the centre line to run in on goal, but Gary Cahill did extremely well to get back in time to force a corner.
And two minutes later Rondon led another counter-attack, passing across to Jake Livermore, who spotted substitute Nacer Chadli entering the box, but the former Tottenham man pulled his shot agonisingly wide.
Conte then quickly made a double substitution, bringing off Eden Hazard and Pedro in favour of Willian and Batshuayi.
And the move soon paid dividends as Chelsea found the breakthrough, even if it came with a bit of luck after Cahill sliced a shot horribly wide.
But the ball stayed in play and was tracked down by Azpilicueta, who sent in a low cross that was met by a sliding Batshuayi, setting off wild celebrations on the Chelsea sideline and among the visiting supporters.
After securing their sixth English title — fifth in the Premier League era — Chelsea will seek to complete a double in Conte’s first season by winning the FA Cup final against Arsenal on May 27.