Stamford Bridge was in a celebratory mood for the final game of the 2014/15 season against Sunderland because, in an impressive showing, José Mourinho had achieved the title comfortably with eight points to spare over Manchester City.
It led to a carnival atmosphere inside the ground with fans not only celebrating their title success, but also Didier Drogba’s Chelsea career, which was coming to an end.
In a somewhat bewildering and unusual sight, he was chaired off the pitch by his fellow teammates – setting a Chelsea standard of what would come in future years when players like John Terry also retired.
From a Sunderland perspective, the team and fans alike arrived in London for the second time in four days, on this occasion breathing a huge sigh of relief.
A few days earlier, they has secured their Premier League safety after a strong defensive performance earned a precious point against Arsenal. That point was enough to secure safety for another season, leaving Dick Advocaat in tears at the final whistle.
With Chelsea champions and Sunderland safe, there was ultimately nothing to play for in this encounter. The game was flat and you could sense that both teams were already pondering where they would go on their summer holidays.
The somewhat meaningless nature of this game appeared to suit the away side early on. They played with an attacking zest and freedom that was generally lacking throughout the entire campaign. With Connor Wickham, Steven Fletcher and Jermain Defoe prominent, the stats at the end showed that Sunderland took 17 shots at Petr Cech’s goal – a lot higher than their average for the season.
The early attacking pressure paid dividends in the 30th minute when Fletcher nodded Sunderland ahead. After the Chelsea defence allowed the ball to bounce twice in their box, the Scot was standing free at the back post to nod the ball into the net. This was a welcome goal for Fletcher who had not scored since the win at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace the previous November.
Unfortunately for Sunderland, despite some good defensive displays, it was as good as it got.
Eventually, the attacking pressure from Chelsea finally told, and they equalised before halftime through a Diego Costa penalty. John O’Shea fouled Cuadrado and Diego Costa - who had only been on the field for seven minutes - slid the penalty past Vito Mannone for his 20th goal of the campaign.
With Eden Hazard in irrepressible form, Chelsea took control in the second half, and it looked like there was only going to be one winner. Sunderland were stoic and defended with pride and diligence, however, they were eventually broken down.
It wasn’t until the 70th minute that the champions edged ahead. Hazard created the goal with a scything run, eliminating several Sunderland players before laying the ball to Remy, who dragged a low shot past Mannone.
Sunderland pressed gamely for an equaliser – Fletcher headed wide from a promising position and Connor Wickham twice tested Cech – but Chelsea exploited that ambition to craft a lovely third goal. The hosts broke down the left and Remy met Nemanja Matic’s tempting near-post delivery with a composed flicked finish to spark the title celebrations.
With only minutes remaining, the game was played out in a tempo that a pub 5 a side team could easily better!
As Chelsea lifted the trophy and celebrated their success, the thoughts of many Sunderland fans immediately turned to the managerial job and whether Advocaat would stay put. After the game, he suggested he needed time to think.
At least we tried to score some goals and give them a hard time. We gave cheap goals but they deserved it.
The players responded excellently - to get 12 points makes me very proud. My assistant said to me we made the impossible, possible. I have a big decision to make.
With a bit of reflection and a bouquet of flowers for his wife, Advocaat would decide to stay. – however, in hindsight, it was probably a decision made with too much emotion involved.
Advocaat would eventually leave the following October continuing the unsettled managerial environment of leading Sunderland AFC – but for now, at least, it was job done.
Sunderland: Mannone, Jones, Coates, O’ Shea, Van Aanholt, Rodwell, Larsson, Johnson (Giaccherini), Wickham, Defoe, Fletcher.
Unused: Pickford, Cattermole, Reveillere, Graham, Vergini, Buckley.