Chelsea party hard as landmarks tumble

LONDON - Like many parties it started a little nervously but eight goals later, the tension relieved with a rout of Wigan and the Premier League title sewn up in emphatic style, Chelsea's fans could finally let loose.

As the goals rained in and the landmarks fell, Chelsea's fans bounced themselves into a frenzy of celebration that, after their championship-clinching 8-0 victory, was certain to last long into the west London night.

Nicolas Anelka's opener after six minutes had eased most of the nerves and it was a lively atmosphere as Chelsea sought the victory they needed for their first title in four years.

But with Wigan catching the eye in every sense with their luminous orange shirts and their probing midfield passing the home fans could be forgiven for starting to get edgy again.

They need not have worried, however, as long as Frank Lampard was on the pitch.

The remarkable midfielder had set up the opener and when he was brought down in the box by Gary Caldwell - penalty converted and Caldwell sent off - it was game and title over, even if Didier Drogba threatened to sour the mood with a show of petulance at not being allowed the honour of the spot-kick.

At Old Trafford, Manchester United had also slipped into a 2-0 lead en route to a 4-0 win over Stoke City but it barely registered among the Stamford Bridge faithful.

Salomon Kalou tucked in the third and Anelka volleyed an excellent fourth to take Chelsea's tally to 99 league goals.

It was a Premier League record but the crowd wanted the 100. No team had managed it since Tottenham Hotspur scored 111 in 1962/63 and that was from four more games.


They got their wish and then some. Drogba almost managed it with an overhead kick but he was not to be denied and seized on the loose ball to head in the fifth.

It took him to the 27 he wanted and brought the ton up for Chelsea but there was more to come and this time Drogba was allowed the spot-kick duties to smash in his 28th.

Four goals had come in 15 minutes of mayhem but it was not over as Drogba completed a memorable hat-trick and make it seven for Chelsea for the fourth time this season.

Even coach Carlo Ancelotti, enjoying the crowning moment of his first season in charge, realised it was time to loosen the collar as he responded to the crowd's promptings by delivering a wave and clenched-fist salute.

Ashley Cole had the final word, volleying-in a last-minute eighth to register Chelsea's best-ever top flight victory.

The tannoy announcer played Madness's One Step Beyond, a boot-stomping hit from three decades ago when Chelsea were in deep financial trouble and relegated after finishing a distant last in the old first division.

Anyone then suggesting they would be on the verge of a League and FA Cup Double after a decade of unprecedented success would have been marched off for medical treatment.

But they are now a major force in the domestic and European game and the fans who suffered for so long are still milking it.

The builders quickly erected the presentation stage as the blue and white ticker tape rained down.