Carlo Ancelotti said yesterday that it was his Chelsea players who had held their nerve to beat Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield and leave them requiring just a win over Wigan Athletic at home on Sunday to be sure of taking the Premier League title from Manchester United.
On what was billed as the day on which the title would be decided, it was Ancelotti's team who crushed Liverpool, leaving Sir Alex Ferguson to admit that only a "crazy'' turnaround could prevent Chelsea from triumphing in the title race. Ferguson's United won 1-0 against Sunderland but go into their final game of the season at home to Stoke City one point behind Chelsea and with a far inferior goal difference.
Chelsea beat Liverpool with goals from Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard – the first the result of a dreadful back pass from Steven Gerrard. Ancelotti said: "This was the key in the fight for the title and we played very well. We deserved to win. It was an important performance. There was a lot of pressure in this game on us. I think we had a good control of our emotions."
Ferguson dismissed the conspiracy theories that Gerrard had passed to Drogba on purpose in order to prevent United from winning their record-breaking 19th title – one more than Liverpool – and conceded that he was "clutching at straws'' to hope that United could win an unprecedented fourth title in a row.
Ferguson, whose team won through a Luis Nani goal in the first half, said: "Obviously, I wouldn't insult Wigan in any shape or form because they are a really good football team and they will have a go. You never know what can happen. Football is a crazy game.
"Manchester City did us a great turn by beating Chelsea twice and Wigan are another neighbour, but listen, we know we are clutching at straws a little bit. But the important thing is for us to win our game and enjoy it.
"You never know. It would be an incredible achievement if we win the league because it will never be done again, a team winning four in a row. The fight goes on and we have stretched it out for another week and that's what we wanted to do."
Chelsea are now 1-14 with the bookmakers to win the title on Sunday when they play Wigan, who beat them 3-1 at the DW stadium in September. Should they lose and United only draw against Stoke then Chelsea's goal difference – currently 10 better than that of Ferguson's team – would be enough to bring home the fourth league title in the club's 110-year history.
Lampard, who scored his 26th goal of the season yesterday, said that his team wanted to win the Double. "We know that might have had something to do with Manchester United but we had a job to do regardless. It would be nice to win it next week in front of our own fans, and then we have an FA Cup final [against Portsmouth] after that too.
"We hit a low point a couple of months ago, so you have to give credit to everyone – the players, the management, the staff. We dug ourselves out and we are now on the brink of doing the Double.
"The [Liverpool] fans still got behind their team and you have to give it to Liverpool for their professionalism. It's been a difficult week for them, being knocked out of Europe, but the fans clapped us off."
Chelsea are also just three goals away from breaking Manchester United's Premier League record of 97 in a season set in 1999-2000. Didier Drogba said that Chelsea had been waiting for the chance to throw off United's domination of them since the club's last title-winning season in 2006. "We have waited for this moment for a long time, although it's not done yet. We have another game next week and will have to win it. We'll just concentrate on winning that.
"He [Gerrard] made a big mistake [to give Drogba the ball], but you don't do things like that on purpose. I was just lucky to be there and score. It was good for us because it gave us a lot of confidence to go on and play. It's a very good result."