Chelsea finished the Premier League season on a positive note, coming from behind to win 2-1 at Cardiff City on Sunday in both teams' final match of the campaign.
Cardiff went ahead via Craig Bellamy's deflected opener in the 15th minute, but Chelsea turned the match around with two goals in three second-half minutes, via substitute Andre Schurrle and Fernando Torres.
Chelsea finish the season in third place with 82 points, four behind champions Manchester City. Cardiff finish last with 30 points. With the league season ending Sunday, both teams will immediately begin looking toward next season. But for Cardiff and Chelsea, the future looks vastly different.
Cardiff, who ended a 51-year absence from England's top flight with their participation in the Premier League this season, will spend the next campaign in the League Championship.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who took over from Malky Mackay mid-season, says he's targeting instant return.
"Before this year we had four seasons at the top of the Championship," Solskjaer said, per BBC Sport. "Now we have gone down and taken a step back, next season will be about showing character and bouncing straight back."
Meanwhile, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is set to submit an end-of-season report to the club on Monday. Among his major business this summer will be sorting the futures of on-loan stars such as goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and striker Romelu Lukaku.
Though Chelsea stayed in contention for the league title almost until the final day, the season could be considered a disappointment. The Blues finish the campaign without a trophy and will post their lowest league points total in a full season under Mourinho, per @OptaJoe.
Speaking to reporters in the build-up to Sunday's match, Mourinho told reporters that his job is "different" than in previous years—an assessment that includes his first spell at the club, which included two Premier League titles. As quoted by The Guardian's Dominic Fifield, Mourinho said:
The team that won the trophies at Chelsea was a team with a certain structure, not just tactically but from a personality point-of-view, and that team is over. It doesn't exist any more. Chelsea needs to build another team with some similarities to that one. Not with the same profile of players, but similarities with qualify, personality, in a certain tactical approach. We're in a transition.
Chelsea started brightly and nearly went ahead in the third minute, when Torres beat Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall to a loose ball and shot on the unguarded goal. The ball looked destined for the back of the net, but Steven Caulker raced in to make a crucial clearance.
The away side continued to dominate possession but went behind after a rare Cardiff attack in the 15th minute. Bellamy picked up possession on the left and took a couple touches before taking a speculative shot from distance. There seemed to be little danger until the ball deflected off Cesar Azpilicueta and into the net past Mark Schwarzer for a 1-0 Cardiff advantage.
Chelsea had a big chance to equalise 12 minutes later as John Obi Mikel played a long ball over the top to Oscar. The Brazilian controlled the ball in the box and shaped to shoot, but Ben Turner moved in quickly to deflect the ball away to safety.
After the break, Chelsea continued to push forward but—at least initially—failed to trouble Cardiff's goal. When Eden Hazard fired into the side netting from Ashley Cole's cross in the 66th minute, it seemed not to be the Blues' day.
But then Mourinho's substitution helped turn the match around.
Schurrle scored Chelsea's first in the 72nd minute. Cesar Azpilicueta had the initial chance, forcing a fine save from Marshall with a header. The first rebound then fell to the Spaniard, who hit the crossbar from close range. Then, on the second rebound, Schurrle powered in his volley to make it 1-1.
Chelsea were ahead three minutes later, with Schurrle involved again. After Cardiff failed to clear their box, the German headed to Torres in the centre of the box. The Spaniard had plenty of time to steady himself before shooting low past Marshall.
Hazard had another chance in the 85th minute, but the Belgian volleyed wide from Schurrle's cross. Schurrle then forced Marshall into a final save in stoppage time with a curling effort from the edge of the box.
|Don Cowie (for Daehli, 67')||N/A||6.0|
|Rhys Healey (for Bellamy, 76')||N/A||6.0|
|Tom James (for Campbell, 89')||N/A||6.1|
Ratings via WhoScored.com
|John Obi Mikel||6.4||6.6|
|Andre Schurrle (for Mikel, 66')||N/A||8.7|
|Nathan Ake (for Salah, 79')||N/A||6.1|
|John Swift (for Hazard, 89')||N/A||6.1|
Ratings via WhoScored.com
Speaking to PremierLeague.com, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said his side need to improve next season:
Finishing third is not a drama, it is a position we will have to accept in a transitional season. We deserved to win [against Cardiff], we played well, especially for an end-of-season game.
We need to improve, we know that, but today with young players in creative roles we played well. We can improve our killer instincts, because we need to score more goals from less chances.