Didier Drogba scored his 100th Premier League goal to help Chelsea ease past a determined Stoke City. RDM has enjoyed his first week in interim charge, having followed Tuesday’s Cup win, with another confidence boosting clean sheet. The skipper was back in the side too which all bodes well for Wednesday’s visit of Napoli.
RDM began with an unfamiliar 4-2-2 formation with Kalou and Drogba up front. The old familiar spine of the team was back with Cech, Terry, Lampard and Drogba all starting. The old familiar determination, desire and power football was also back as Chelsea could have scored twice in the first 20 minutes. Gary Cahil had the first chance when he accelerated through the visitors midfield and unleashed a powerful drive, which had the Stoke keeper at full stretch to superbly turn away. Ramires, who was playing on the right, then found space in the area and narrowly missed converting Kalou’s cross. Chelsea were in the ascendency as Stoke, typically, defended for all their worth.
Ivanovic, playing at right back, had two or three tangles with Ricardo Fuller before the Stoke forward, inexplicably, kicked out at the Serbian, after he had cleared the ball. Referee Marrriner had no choice and duly obliged the baying home crowd with a straight red card. RDM reacted immediately by replacing, the more defensive Miereles, with attack minded Juan Mata.
Stoke had only one option now and that was 10 men behind the ball and play for an unlikely draw. Chelsea continued to storm forward but found the ‘Stoke team bus’ parked across the goal.
The crowd reaction to every chance spurned added to the growing tension in the second half. Chelsea piled forward but the visitors resolute defence held firm until the 68th minute. The magical Juan Mata slid a gloriously weighted ball, through the massed rank of defenders, and found Drogba who calmly rounded Begovic and slid home his 100th Premier League goal. The celebrations that followed, both on the pitch and in the stands, told how relieved the Blues were to get the breakthrough. The home crowd were now singing ‘one Di Matteo’ as smiles, wider than Fulham Broadway, returned to the faces of the beleaguered Chelsea supporters.
The 10 men of Stoke rallied briefly but Chelsea could have had another couple and Mata was unlucky to see his curling free kick strike the post. Cheers at the final whistle celebrated three very important points. Chelsea are now only four points behind third placed Tottenham with the North Londoner’s still to visit the Bridge. Maybe Chelsea were not at their imperious best but the confidence is returning and two goals and another clean sheet on Wednesday and who knows, RDM may be staying longer than we thought.