Chelsea visited the Britannia Stadium on Saturday afternoon off the back of a midweek League Cup defeat to Swansea City.Demba Ba got the nod ahead of Fernando Torres, whose lacklustre displays of recent weeks have revived criticism from some quarters. Benitez made the point that Torres has featured in all of the Blues’ Premier League games this season. Ryan Bertrand came in in the three behind Ba and David Luiz dropped back into centre half as Gary Cahill missed the game due to the birth of his baby boy.
Much has been made of the Potters’s home form this campaign, conceding only 7 goals at the Britannia whilst needing only to hurdle the challenges of Chelsea and Wigan Athletic to go an entire calendar year unbeaten in the league.
City are known for their physical approach and presence and started as such. Throwing balls into the box toward the imperial figure of Kenwyne Jones and Jon Walters as well as forcing set pieces to put Chelsea under pressure, the first twenty minutes were soaked up well by the Blues’.
‘Boring, Boring’ was the cry from the Stoke City faithful in the 24th minute before an immaculate move saw Frank Lampard drift off Glen Whelan and go one on one with Begovic, who saved well with his feet when any fan would but their house on Frank finding the net. Lamps then pinged a 40 yard pass to the feet of Ba, who was foiled by Begovic before Ramires was well challenged trying to turn in the lose ball.
Two minutes added on, and Chelsea took the lead after some good pressure in and around the Stoke area. Hazard caught the ball on the corner of the area, waited for Azpilicueta overlap who pumped a ball onto the head of Jon Walters, under pressure from Juan Mata, who knocked the ball into his own net.
Begovic would deny Cole with his feet after the break, before good old Sian Massey correctly ruled Matthew Etherington offside had fell over in the box under a challenge from Azpilicueta.
On 60 minutes Chelsea doubled their lead. Juan Mata’s teasing corner tricked the hapless Walters into netting again past his own keeper on his 100th Premier League appearance. David Luiz was tickled. Stoke’s reputation was certainly exceeding them today, a cross and a corner and two headed goals.
Seconds later, Lampard expertly laid a ball on for Juan Mata, who went down in the box under a mess of Shawcross and Huth. Lampard doesn’t miss. The European Champions were in cruise control. Eden Hazard belted in Chelsea’s forth from 25 yards past the stranded Begovic. You don’t save them, brilliant from the Belgian.
Walters would spank a late against the bar in the dying embers to cap a miserable day for him, and a very positive afternoon for Chelsea. With Spurs dropping points against QPR in the early kick off, we went back to third place by a point with a game in hand.
Chelsea: Cech, Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Ivanovic, Cole, Ramires Lampard, Hazard, Mata, Bertrand, Ba
Stoke: Begovic, Wilkingson, Huth, Shawcross, Cameron, Nzonzi, Whelan, Walters, Adam, Etherington, Jones.
Referee: Andre Marriner
Peter Adams – @easypeejy