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Batshuayi delivers Chelsea Premier League title

© AFP / by Steve MADELEY | Chelsea's Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi (R) scores the opening goal during their English Premier League match against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, west Midlands on May 12, 2017

WEST BROMWICH (UNITED KINGDOM) (AFP) - 

Chelsea secured the Premier League title on Friday after substitute Michy Batshuayi's 82nd-minute goal earned Antonio Conte's side a hard-earned 1-0 victory at West Bromwich Albion.

The Belgian striker's late goal at The Hawthorns took Chelsea 10 points clear of second-place Tottenham Hotspur, who have only nine points left to play for.

It is Chelsea's second title win in three seasons, their sixth in total, and comes at the end of former Juventus and Italy coach Conte's first season as manager.

Conte, who claimed three Serie A titles as Juventus coach, has restored the club to the winners' circle by rebuilding from the chaotic end of Jose Mourinho's second reign.

Two years after Mourinho led Chelsea to the title, Conte has stitched the London club back together after dressing-room unity unravelled under Mourinho during a horrendous title defence last season.

The Italian's side finally broke through West Brom's stubborn resistance with eight minutes remaining and will now chase the double when they face Arsenal in the FA Cup final on May 27.

Chelsea were almost stunned inside 30 seconds as West Brom created the game's first chance.

Darren Fletcher's lofted pass found Salomon Rondon and his flicked header drew a smart save from Thibaut Courtois.

Chelsea quickly began applying pressure, but West Brom had a huge chance on the counter-attack when James McClean seized on a loose pass and raced 50 yards into Chelsea territory.

But his attempted pass to Rondon was poor and the Venezuelan was crowded out by Chelsea defenders.

Chelsea were becoming frustrated in their efforts to breach the Baggies' defence, but Cesc Fabregas nearly broke through with a snap-shot that flashed half a yard wide of the far post.

Chelsea might have broken the deadlock just two minutes into the second half when a powerful cross-shot from Victor Moses was turned around the post superbly by West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster.

Yet there was almost a shock for Chelsea when Rondon escaped a challenge from David Luiz and raced clear, only for Cesar Azpilicueta to make a vital, saving challenge.

Rondon then teed up substitute Nacer Chadli, who fired a shot narrowly wide for West Brom.

But with eight minutes remaining, Chelsea finally struck as Azpilicueta broke into the West Brom box and crossed for Batshuayi to force home from close range.

Conte charged onto the field in celebration, while West Brom stewards were forced to eject three pitch invaders before the game could be completed and Chelsea could celebrate the title.

by Steve MADELEY

© 2017 AFP