Willian with his 12th goal of the season, Eden Hazard with his 17th, Pedro with his 13th and Michy Batshuayi with his third and fourth in three games wiped out an early Sunderland lead in style and set a new Premier League record of 30 wins in a season, on a day when John Terry made his final Chelsea appearance at Stamford Bridge.
Our Captain, Leader, Legend played the first 26 minutes of the game before coming off, in a planned substitution, to an incredible standing ovation, a guard of honour from his team-mates and hugs from his replacement in this game, Gary Cahill and from Antonio Conte.
By then Willian had made it 1-1 which was the half-time score, with Hazard establishing a lead on the hour, before Pedro and Batshuayi’s brace added the shine late on.
Terry, on his 717th Chelsea appearance overall, had along with his son Georgie and daughter Summer earlier led the Chelsea team out through a Sunderland guard of honour and when he looked left or right, he could see special displays and banners of gratitude at both ends of the pitch.
Among all the rightful plaudits for Terry, the boss was not forgotten either and there was a ‘Grazie’ banner high above the Shed End and after kick-off, an early and mighty ‘Antonio’ chant was acknowledged by him with applause to all sides of the ground.
Just three minutes into the game however, the celebratory mood was briefly punctured a little by a Sunderland goal. It came from a free-kick conceded by David Luiz although there was the misfortune of two deflections that diverted it into the path of Javier Manquillio, who gratefully hammered it high into the net past Thibaut Courtois. Our keeper now knew his final total of Premier League clean sheets in his quest for the Golden Glove would be posted at 16. It proved to be enough to take the award as Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris, the only keeper who could catch him, conceded in their game at Hull.
The rapid Chelsea equaliser emanated from a set-piece too after Eden Hazard had been chopped down. Marcos Alonso’s strike was very sweet although just a touch too high, but when it came back off the crossbar, a clever pass and a mishit from Diego Costa and good work by Hazard ended in a chance for Willian out wide. He smashed it in via a touch off Jordan Pickford in the Wearsiders’ goal.
Diego Costa and Hazard came close of manufacturing a second goal soon after and Alonso struck the ball well again, with Pickford only able to push the shot back into play. Diego Costa then volleyed a David Luiz cross wide. Fifteen action-packed minutes had been played.
JT was part of the next attack and won a corner, which was followed by another, ending with Victor Moses firing over the bar. David Luiz headed a Willian corner over. Surely it would not be long before the Blues took the lead.
First came the Terry substitution, a moment that clearly moved him, after which Willian from a Moses pass almost placed an effort inside the far post.
Diego Costa was on the end of a foul from behind from John O’Shea shortly after having been booked for a tussle with the Sunderland skipper on halfway. O’Shea also had a shot saved by Courtois before Hazard worked himself some space but shot over at the other end to complete the first-half action. It was 1-1 at the break.
Our all-conquering Under-18s were paraded to plenty of applause at half-time but then it was back to our immediate task of trying to win our 30th and last league game of the season.
Hazard was chopped down by Billy Jones with the second half barely underway. The yellow card was justifiably waved.
Courtois was then called upon to make a save from a corner before the Blues properly set about trying to score our second goal. Moses did his hardest to try to make it happen down the right but it was Hazard who achieved it on the hour, with a tremendous strike across Pickford having beaten Jones on the outside.
Hazard was later replaced by Pedro, as Diego Costa had been by Batshuatyi, as Conte kept his squad ticking over ahead of next weekend’s FA Cup final. Meanwhile, our opponents in that match Arsenal were losing their defender Laurent Koscielny to suspension. He was sent off in their game against Everton.
Roman Abramovich, who was watching on from the West Stand, was the next to be heralded in song by a happy Stamford Bridge, who were treated to a third goal when Fabregas’s long pass was dealt with poorly by Joleon Lescott and Pedro nipped in to head home.
The other sub Batshuayi then added the cherry on the top with two goals in three minutes. Firstly, he finished smartly and first time from Pedro’s pass and then he powered inside and curled an unstoppable shot past Pickford. It was the last kick of our league season.
The 30 wins that send us to Wembley with spirits sky high beats a record already possessed by Chelsea. Our 93 points total this season is the second best in top-flight history. Only the Blues of 2004/05 with 95 managed more. For Cesar Azpliicueta there was the huge achievement of playing every minute of the league campaign.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Terry (c) (Cahill 26), Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Willian, Diego Costa (Batshuayi 62), Hazard (Pedro 70).
Unused subs Begovic, Zouma, Chalobah, Matic.
Scorers Willian 8, Hazard 61, Pedro 78, Batshuayi 90, 90+2.
Booked Jones 48
Sunderland (3-5-2): Pickford; Jones (Gibson 88), O'Shea (c), Lescott; Manquillo, Rodwell (Gooch 62), Cattermole, Larsson, Oviedo; Januzaj, Borini.
Unused subs Mannone, Maja, Asoro, Love, Embleton.
Scorer Manquillo 3
Booked Diego Costa 39
Referee Neil Swarbrick