LONDON, May 24- Didier Drogba drew a line under his second spell at Chelsea as Jose Mourinho’s side wrapped up their Premier League title-winning campaign with a 3-1 victory over Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Diego Costa confirmed his status as the club’s number one striker with his 20th league goal of the season, a 36th minute penalty to cancel out Steven Fletcher’s opening goal before Loic Remy completed the win with two second half goals.
Drogba, meanwhile, was carried from the field by his team-mates when he was replaced after a brief, 28-minute appearance that had all the signs of a final farewell.
There was always going to be a celebratory air to this game, particularly since Sunderland secured their Premier League future with the midweek draw at Arsenal, ensuring there was nothing at stake for either team.
And the mood was set before kick-off when members of Chelsea’s 2005 title-winning team were reunited on the pitch before kick-off to mark the tenth anniversary of that success.
Three of that team – Drogba, John Terry and Petr Cech – were in the starting as Chelsea set the seal on their fourth title in a decade.
But of those three, only Terry is expected to still be at the club when it begins its title defence in August and Jose Mourinho’s decision to name Drogba as captain and start with Cech in goal added to the sense this game was as much about signing off and saying goodbye as it was gaining three more points in a campaign long since over.
Mourinho’s competitive nature was never going to allow his side to coast, especially in the wake of Monday’s 3-0 loss at West Bromwich Albion, Chelsea’s third defeat of the league season.
But it was clear there was a degree of sentiment in the manager’s team selection when Drogba was withdrawn after just 28 minutes.
Mourinho and his staff lined up on the touchline to applaud the 37-year-old as he left the field saluting to the crowd.
The forward is out of contract this summer and it was clear from his reaction that his second spell at the club is now coming to a close.
At that point, though, Chelsea were already trailing to Fletcher’s 26th minute header after the Scotland international was left unmarked as he met Adam Johnson’s corner.
Moments earlier Cech had been handed the opportunity to show why he will be in demand if, as expected, he leaves Chelsea during the close season.
The keeper reacted well to beat away a powerful shot from Jermain Defoe and it was clear there was risk Sunderland could take the edge off the home side’s celebrations.
The Wearside club have been lifted since the arrival of Advocaat and remain hopeful of convincing the 67-year-old Dutchman to remain at the club.
Advocaat had been left in tears following his side’s display at the Emirates Stadium this week that confirmed he had succeeded in his task of keeping the Black Cats out of the Championship.
And it looked as though he might register another notable achievement by inflicting a first home league defeat of the season on Mourinho’s men.
Sunderland’s advantage didn’t last, however, and within ten minutes of Fletcher putting them in front, Chelsea were on level terms.
Costa had appeared in place of Drogba and converted from the penalty spot after Juan Cuadrado’s burst into the area had been halted by a clumsy challenge by John O’Shea, the Sunderland captain.
Once level, there was little chance Chelsea would let things slip again and Nemanja Matic should have put them ahead when he headed over in the 52nd minute.
That proved to be a temporary reprieve for Advocaat’s team and Remy eventually found a way past Vito Mannone, the Sunderland keeper with a low drive from 20 yards out before completing the win with a close range finish two minutes from time.