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Chelsea wins title with three games to spare

LONDON: It's taken a Russian billionaire and Europe's hottest coach to do it. But Chelsea ended 50 years of misery by winning the English league title on Saturday with a 2-0 victory over Bolton, with England midfielder Frank Lampard striking twice in the second half.

The result meant that Jose Mourinho's team has an unassailable 14-point lead at the top of the Premier League standings and has won the title with three games to spare.

The triumph also means that, half a century late, Chelsea resumes its quest for a first triumph in European soccer's most prestigious competition as a league champion.

As 1955 championship winner — its maiden league success — Chelsea should have been England's first team to enter the inaugural European Cup.

But the club was advised by the Football League not to take part because it would have led to fixture congestion and compromised its defence of the league title.

Roy Bentley, who scored 150 goals in 367 games for the Blues, was one of the stars of Ted Drake's title-winning team.

``Over the years the fans suffered us. In the first three years I was here, we fought to avoid relegation every year. To give them the championship was absolutely fabulous,'' said Bentley, who turns 81 next month.

``Ted Drake was absolutely wonderful for what he did for this club. He changed everything that needed changing.

"He introduced a training program that not only didn't exist with Chelsea before but never existed with practically any football team.''

Tommy Docherty took over from Drake and unleashed a young, free-scoring striker called Jimmy Greaves onto the game. But Greaves had moved on to Tottenham by the time Chelsea won the 1965 League Cup by beating Leicester.

Not taken seriously

Chelsea still wasn't taken seriously as a league title contender, however, with Leeds, Liverpool and later Manchester United and Arsenal dominating the championship race.

Under Dave Sexton, Chelsea upset Leeds to win the 1970 FA Cup but the league title remained elusive with three third-place finishes until Claudio Ranieri's men placed second to Arsenal last season.

By that time, Chelsea was being funded by the millions of Russian businessman Roman Abramovich. But the Blues still finished 11 points behind unbeaten Arsenal and made a change at the top.

Ranieri was fired and Abramovich brought in Jose Mourinho.

The young Portuguese coach had already led less fancied FC Porto to triumphs in the UEFA Cup followed the next season by the Champions League. He also won back-to-back domestic league championships and the Portuguese Cup in 2003.

Then, in his opening season in English soccer, he captured the first trophy available, the League Cup. Chelsea also remains on course for a triple triumph. The Blues go into a Champions League semifinal against Liverpool on Tuesday with the two teams tied at 0-0 from the first leg at Stamford Bridge. — AP

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