LONDON – Didier Drogba?s hat-trick capped Chelsea’s stunning 8-0 demolition of ten-man Wigan as the Blues ensured the Premier League title returned to Stamford Bridge for the first time in four years.
Nicolas Anelka set Chelsea on the way to victory with Frank Lampard adding a second from the spot before half-time.
The floodgates opened after the break, with Salomon Kalou, Anelka, Drogba’s treble and a late volley from Ashley Cole meaning Chelsea ended the campaign with 103 league goals — the first time a Premier League club has passed the century mark.
Chelsea needed a win to be certain of pipping Manchester United in the race to the championship and delivering silverware to the club at the end of Carlo Ancelotti’s first season in charge.
Wigan’s dire record in London — they had failed to win on any of their previous 17 Premier League visits to the capital — reinforced the pre-match view that victory would be a formality for Ancelotti?s side.
And Chelsea?s formidable record at Stamford Bridge, where they had won 16 of their previous 18 home league fixtures, stacked the odds even further in favour of the Blues.
Last weekend?s victory at Liverpool ensured Ancelotti?s side came into the final day of the campaign with a one-point advantage over United and the manager entrusted Chelsea?s title ambitions to the same starting eleven.
The initial signs suggested Wigan might present more formidable opposition than Liverpool had seven days previously with the home defence immediately pressed onto the back foot.
Those early exchanges, however, provided only a fleeting moment of hope for Chelsea?s rivals as Ancelotti?s side wasted little time in taking control of the game, Anelka scoring from close-range from their first meaningful attack.
It was the perfect start for Chelsea but Wigan responded well and Charles N?Zogbia wasted an opportunity to bring them back on level terms four minutes after Anelka?s goal.
The visitors dominated possession for a spell but with striker Hugo Rodallega lacking support, they never managed to test Chelsea keeper Petr Cech.
And when Latics defender Gary Caldwell was sent off in the 31st minute after tugging at Lampard’s shirt as the midfielder broke clear in the visitors? penalty box, the game looked as good as over.
Lampard slotted home the resulting penalty after refusing Drogba?s pleas to be given the chance to move ahead of Wayne Rooney in the league scoring charts, prompting a churlish sulk from the Ivorian.
That was quickly forgotten in the second half when Drogba and the rest of Ancelotti?s side provided a stunning demonstration of the strengths that have made them champions.
Kalou added the third goal nine minutes after the restart when he played a neat one-two with Lampard and finished from close range.
Three minutes later Anelka produced the goal of the game when he volleyed home from a tight angle after being picked out by Branislav Ivanovic?s crossfield ball.
By that point celebrations were in full swing around Stamford Bridge and they were cranked up a gear when Drogba finally found the target and racked up Chelsea?s century of league goals by heading home at the far post.
Lampard relinquished penalty duties when Ashley Cole was brought down by Mario Melchiot, allowing Drogba to claim his second and the striker completed his hat-trick when he followed up Joe Cole?s shot ten minutes from time. — AFP