It wasn’t a Fat Lady singing at the end. It was blokes. Big London blokes. “We’re gonna win the league,” the Chelsea supporters bellowed from the cramped away section at rickety old Goodison Park.
Their team had just inflicted upon Everton only their second home defeat of the season and their heaviest loss since the 5-0 drubbing handed out to them in November by Antonio Conte’s men.
That win came fifth in a sequence of 13 in succession, a run that earned Chelsea 39 points out of 39. That run had put the crucial momentum behind Chelsea this season and handed them the initiative in the title race. They've never surrendered it.
Their form has been less superhuman since then. They dropped points in five of their next 13 fixtures but the gap had become insurmountable.
Conte maintained his focus on the tasks at hand after dismissing Everton. No title was won on Merseyside he insisted but the manner in which Chelsea celebrated after this tidy win said otherwise.
The players and staff spent a good couple of minutes among their fans at the final whistle. Thibaut Courtois and Gary Cahill handed their match-worn shirts to a pair of lucky recipients.
Conte himself conducted the fans' songs. He pumped his arms all the way from his waist to the top of his head, exuding not only relief but real satisfaction. He jumped on the back of his goalkeeper in exultation. He shook each one of his players’ hands and gave them all a strong, warm hug.
This might be a small step in their season – one game out of 38 – but it felt like a giant leap in terms of securing Chelsea’s inevitable league win. This was a big week for Chelsea. They had an FA Cup semi-final against Spurs, a home league game on Tuesday against Southampton and this test at Everton, one of the most difficult away grounds in the country. Chelsea sailed through. In the context of the setback they suffered against Manchester United a couple of weeks ago that achievement is all the more impressive.
It doesn’t matter what Tottenham do from here on in. If Chelsea win three out of their remaining four games then they will be champions. This title has had less to do with irresistible football than it has had to do with the relentless consistency imbued in the side through diligent and passionate coaching.
Even if Chelsea are occasionally workmanlike there are moments of unadulterated genius that carry them through in difficult times. Everton were doing well here – with Idrissa Gueye man-marking Eden Hazard out of the game for long spells – but Pedro conjured a goal that perhaps only a World Cup and Champions League winner could.
Pedro typifies the turnaround brought to West London by Conte. He was a big player going nowhere under Jose Mourinho, as indeed were many of his colleagues. In Conte he has found a coach who demands he hits his potential every single time he crosses the white line. Very soon he will have a Premier League title to show for it.
The third goal featured intricate, quick football from Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa before finish was provided by Willian. Costa demonstrated his class on a day he couldn’t score with touches, intelligence and attitude that far outranked Romelu Lukaku, a centre-forward with designs of one day leading the Chelsea line.
Fabregas and Willian began the day on the bench but Chelsea lose nothing when those two are swapped in for players like Hazard or Pedro. Conte’s demands are exceedingly high for those players in his chosen “13”. Hunger, desire and teamwork are evident even in the substitutes. They all have had a part to play in this unstoppable success.
In a few short matches Conte will have matched the achievements of Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti in winning the title in his first season at Stamford Bridge and has already won the hearts of the supporters in a way not seen since Mourinho’s first spell here in 2004. It’s hard to believe he only started working here in July. The imprint he’s left makes it feel like he’s been around forever; the link he’s forged with the club’s supporters makes it appear that he’s always been a bedrock of their successes.
“Antonio, Antonio, Antonio,” those Chelsea fans sang and a few of them probably have their commemorative tattoos already.
They love him, they sing his name with gusto. In their eyes they are back where they belong. They are London’s best club despite the best efforts of Spurs and the kings of the King’s Road are kings of the Premier League once again.
Conte has straightened Chelsea out, reinvigorated their players and turned them back into champions.