Ashley Cole’s first goal since May 2010 saw European champions Chelsea go three points clear at the top of the Premier League after they left it late to beat Stoke City 1-0 at Stamford Bridge yesterday.
The Italian opted to leave John Terry and Frank Lampard on the bench for their encounter with Tony Pulis’s side and replace them with Gary Cahill and Juan Mata.
The game began similarly to Wednesday’s clash, with the hosts controlling the possession and restricting their opponents. Stoke were unable to really get a hold on the game as Di Matteo’s side looked to iron out the defensive errors that cost them in their previous game. Oscar, making his first domestic start this season, had several unsuccessful efforts on goal before the England left back finished off a wonderful Chelsea move with a neat finish after a sublime touch by Juan Mata.
Stoke City’s best chance came in the first half when an unmarked Jon Walters rose above the Chelsea defence to glance a header off of Petr Cech’s crossbar. Ramires, playing slightly more defensive alongside John Obi Mikel, looked to run from deep at the Stoke defence along with Eden Hazard as the Blues threatened from the off.
They could have taken the lead as well after just seven minutes but Fernando Torres with a delightful lofted through ball by Mata, which the striker brought down superbly with his chest. He was unable to provide the finish though and Begovic was able to claim the ball.
Chelsea’s passing in the middle of the field was fluid and had a good tempo about it, with Mikel and Ramires feeding balls into the lively figures of Hazard, Mata and Oscar. However the killer ball was something the hosts were lacking and they were unable to really penetrate the Stoke defence and test Asmir Begovic.
Oscar began the second half very brightly and was causing the Potters defence all sorts of problems with his pace and trickery. However, referee Michael Oliver deemed that the Brazilian dived upon breaking into the penalty area on 50 minutes and booked him for his troubles. He responded by sending a low left footed drive goalwards, only for Begovic to save.
It was Moses, the Chelsea substitute for Hazad, who looked most dangerous however. Moses’s pace and power was a problem for Stoke and they couldn’t seem to get near the Nigerian. It was the same story for the hosts in front of goal in the second half, their neat build up play in vain as no one was able to provide the final ball for the hard working Torres. It seemed like it was going to be ‘one of those days’ for Chelsea as many supporters had seen enough, heading home early after deciding the game was a lost cause.
The Blues finally made the breakthrough with just under five minutes to play with a well worked goal. Frank Lampard, who had replaced Mikel moments earlier, played a ball wide out to Ivanovic who found Juan Mata lurking in the Stoke penalty area. The little Spaniard executed the deftest of touches to divert the ball into the path of Ashley Cole who had surged up the field. Cole provided an exquisite chip to deceive the advancing Begovic.
Huge sighs of relief were breathed all round Stamford Bridge as the Blues had finally been rewarded for their intricate build up play. Di Matteo threw on John Terry in place of Mata as the hosts looked to secure their lead.
Stoke’s frustration at conceding a late goal was evident as tempers began to flair. David Luiz’s lunge on Jon Walters brought about a mass confrontation in which Terry and Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross had to calm their teammates down.
Things stayed as they were and Chelsea hung on for the three points. The Blues remain top of the league and host Wolves on Tuesday night in the Capital One cup where they will be looking to build on this win.
Meanwhile, David Luiz signed a new deal for a £120,00 per week which will ensure the classy centre-back, signed from Benfica in a £21.3million, is committed to Stamford Bridge until at least 2017. And Ruud Gullit, former Chelsea manager has blasted Chelsea’s most expensive player, Fernando Torres after a below par display during the Blues 2-2 draw against Juventus and yesterday’s 1-0 win over Stoke City at Stamford Bridge saying-
“I am getting impatient with him. He is not involved. He is not in the places he has to be. It’s not enough. For a player of this standard, I want more from him. He is not involved in the game at all. I am just trying to figure out what is wrong with this lad.” Gullit fumed.
- Premier League Highlights: Results For Chelsea v Stoke City (premiersoccerchat.com)
- Chelsea 1 Stoke City 0: match report (telegraph.co.uk)
- Chelsea 1 Stoke 0: Ashley Cole strikes late to leave Tony Pulis ruing Jonathan Walters miss (morningstaronline.co.uk)
- Chelsea’s Ashley Cole strikes late to break stubborn Stoke City (todayonline.com)
- You: Chelsea 1-0 Stoke City | Premier League match report (guardian.co.uk)