Chelsea mauled Stoke City 7-0 to return to the summit of the Premier League with only two games to go. Salomon Kalou netted a hat-trick, Frank Lampard got another two whilst Daniel Sturridge and Florent Malouda also got in on the act late on.
Manchester United had apparently ‘piled’ the pressure on Chelsea going into the game with the Potters but it didn’t seem to show as the Blues racked up seven goals at home for the third time in 2010. Lampard, the returning Ashley Cole and Didier Drogba all had efforts well saved by Thomas Sorensen before Chelsea took the lead. Drogba magnificently controlled a long pass before instantly crossing for Kalou to head home from close range.
Seven minutes later Chelsea and Kalou doubled their tally. Another delicious touch from Drogba freed Lampard on the edge of the box and his shot was only parried by Sorensen, Kalou reacting first to force the ball home. Sorensen dislocated his shoulder in the incident.
Chelsea continued to pour forward and added a third before the interval. Kalou tricked his way into the box whilst being fouled by former blue Robert Huth, waiting until he had crossed the white line signaling the 18-yard box before tumbling. Lampard dispatched the penalty with consummate ease.
The Blues had to wait until the 68th minute before they were to score again, and again it was that man Kalou. In the early part of the second half Stoke had managed to show some sort of defensive solidarity, but that was undone by an incisive Lampard pass which freed Kalou. He ran clear and although his first effort was saved by substitute Asmir Begovic the ball ran kindly for him to ram home his third. He left the pitch moments later to a standing ovation, replaced by Joe Cole.
Chelsea inexplicably didn’t add a fifth when Florent Malouda contrived to miss from a matter of inches, scuffing an Anelka pass wide with the goal at his mercy. Anelka was then denied before Malouda had another golden opportunity, but this time the brilliance of Begovic repelled his close-range effort.
Sam Hutchison replaced Paulo Ferreira in the 73rd minute and had an impressive assist to his name by the 81st. His deep, searching cross was met by a delightful flick from Lampard, who weighted his touch and direction of the ball to sheer perfection, arrowing it across Begovic and into the net for number five.
Chelsea had to wait another seven minutes before finding a sixth goal. Drogba threaded a ball through the square Stoke backline which was expertly taken in his stride by another substitute, Daniel Sturridge. He went round Begovic and slotted home for his first Premier League goal of the season, and Chelsea’s advantage in the goal difference stakes over Manchester United was now at plus seven.
It seemed almost inevitable that Chelsea would score seven again. Joe Cole’s first-time volley across the face of the six-yard box was asking to be tapped in and that is what Malouda did, eventually getting his name on the scoresheet from barely 15 inches out. It was the last goal of the game and marked an impressive recovery from last week’s disappointment at Spurs.
So Chelsea lead United by a point before the trip to Anfield next Sunday, surely as big a game as any we have had at their ground in the last five years. We have an impeccable record against the other members of the ‘Big Four’ this season (played 5 won 5) and we must hope to continue this form rather than the meek surrenders at grounds of the other teams vying for a European spot such as Man City, Everton, Villa and indeed Spurs. And hopefully we’ve saved a goal or two for that game.