Chelsea beat West Brom to win the Premier League title in Antonio Conte's debut season at the club

West Brom 0 Chelsea 1: Michy Batshuayi scored the goal that won Chelsea the title

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The Independent Football

After a season that has so often seen Antonio Conte turn negatives into positives, and been a victory for pure coaching, the title itself was so fittingly won by one more moment of inspiration; one more brave decision.

Michu Batshuayi has barely got a look-in for Chelsea this season, and the manager has often expressed frustration in his development, but it was Conte’s faith in the 23-year-old that ended his side’s frustration at the Hawthorns and ensured the Belgian will be front of centre of every image of celebration.

The Italian took a gamble by bringing on Batshuayi in the 76th minute of what had been an immensely trying 0-0 draw with West Brom, and the striker then took the gamble of a run to score. His effort won the game, and won the title.

It is the sixth of Chelsea’s history, the fourth of Conte’s career, and his first in England in what was his debut season.

The wonder was whether West Brom were going to be mere witnesses to a procession, or proper participants in a battle that was going to make Chelsea have to do that bit more to earn this title.

That was because, since claiming 40 points on 25 February, their record from the next nine games read: five points, six defeats, seven games where they failed to score… but with four of those points and three of those goals coming in two games against Arsenal and Manchester United.

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Conte leads the title celebrations (Getty)

The big sides still get a big response out of Tony Pulis sides, regardless of what stage of the season it is.

That was signalled as early as the opening minute of the game, when Salomon Rondon finished off a sweeping attack with thrusting header. There was similar aggression and energy to every West Brom challenge, leaving many Chelsea players - and especially Eden Hazard - on their back on the rain-sodden pitch. Sam Field was soon booked for one scything tackle from behind on Pedro, that left the winger in a heap, and the young West Brom lad somewhat brazenly protesting his innocence.

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Chelsea fully deserve their league title (Getty)

Chelsea were indeed being made to work, and fight, and really eke out their chances.

The West Brom supporters did ironically celebrate when a decision went their way on 40 minutes, but they might well have been fortunate that referee Michael Oliver didn’t point to the spot when the ball appeared to strike Chris Brunt’s arm earlier in the game.

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For long periods Chelsea struggled to break down West Brom (Getty)

They weren’t fortunate to be level, though, given they had so limited to Chelsea to scrapping for chances and long shots.

The spectacularly-on-form Cesc Fabregas was naturally finding space where others couldn’t, and flashed one 33rd-minute effort wide. It was the closest they’d come in the first half.

Victor Moses went even closer at the start of the second half, bringing a fine low save from Ben Foster as he tried another shot from distance. It did look like it was going to take something inspired, or bit different, to break West Brom down - put David Luiz’s attempted bicycle kick from the resulting corner was probably a bit too different.

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Batshuayi scored the winning goal (Getty)

It looked like Eden Hazard had finally got behind the defence on 52 minutes, but he delayed his shot when forced wide, and West Brom just about managed to scramble the ball away.

That chance inevitably came from an inspired Fabregas floated ball, and he was the Chelsea player most probing, most likely to produce something that opened West Brom.

It said a lot for how much West Brom were frustrating Conte’s side that when Diego Costa got the ball in the box on the hour, and looked set to turn, he rather easily went down. That was how difficult Pulis’s well-drilled defence were making it.

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Batshuayi celebrates the goal that won Chelsea the title (Getty)

They were not going to willingly be anyone’s patsy.

Conte realised something big needed to change, so made a big decision: he took off Chelsea’s most vibrant attacking player this season, removing Hazard for Willian, and introduced Batshuayi for Pedro.

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Conte has won the title in his debut season at the club (Getty)

It had a big effect, an inspired effect.

On 84 minutes, just when West Brom seemed to be getting comfortable in their ability to keep Chelsea out, Batshuayi finally stood out.

Cesar Azpilicueta got behind the backline to square, and the young Belgian got the goal that he and his club had been waiting for.

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