Chelsea put pay to the Potters
Written By: Robert Halter
Roberto Di Matteo took charge for his first Premiership match as Chelsea’s interim manager, following the dismissal of Andre Villas-Boas. Visitors to Stamford Bridge, Stoke City had not beaten the Blues in the league since April 1975 with a 3-0 home win in the old First Division, and had not taken a point at the Bridge since December 1984. A win against the Potters, would put Chelsea back in contention for a Champions League place so the stakes were high going into the game. Stoke survived a scare in the opening three minutes, when Ryan Shawcross had a backward header which landed on top of his own goal. The Potters then had another escape, when Frank Lampard’s corner was narrowly headed over the top by Branislav Ivanovic. A fine run by Gary Cahill was matched by a well struck shot as Asmir Begovic pounced into action to turn the ball away for a corner in the ninth minute, as the Blues maintained their early tempo. On the quarter of the hour mark, Ramires was unable to get a flick onto Salomon Kalou’s left wing cross, as Stoke had their backs to the wall. In the twenty fourth minute, the Potters were reduced to ten men after Ricardo Fuller’s deliberate stamp on Ivanovic, received a straight red card from referee Andre Marriner. The Blues edged even closer to scoring in the thirty first minute, when John Terry’s downward header bounced against the crossbar, from Lampard’s corner. A backpedalling Begovic defused another Blues attack four minutes later, as Lampard’s lofted chip was met from the head of Ivanovic, after interplay between both footballers. After forty minutes, a Ramires cross was mistakenly headed by Shawcross into the path of Ivanovic, who thrashed his shot against the right corner of the upright, as the woodwork again saved Stoke City. Three minutes into the second half, Begovic fumbled a Lampard strike, as Chelsea continued where they left off. Terry’s long range effort flew narrowly wide of the left post, as the Blues kept up the search for a goal. An acrobatic tip over by Begovic kept out Didier Drogba’s curling free kick on sixty five minutes, following Dean Whitehead’s clip on Lampard. But the Potters resistance was ended when Chelsea got the breakthrough two minutes later, as Juan Mata threaded a pass through to Drogba, who rounded Begovic and then placed his shot into the centre of the net. Within a minute, the Blues pressed again as Lampard’s blast deflected off Begovic’s chest. It summed up the Potters afternoon when Andy Wilkinson’s attempt to beat Petr Cech from the centre line, sailed away from the left side of the goal, as Stoke had been unable to get in range of the Chelsea target. When Stoke did get in sight of the net, Cameron Jerome fired wide, after fending off Terry and Cahill. The Blues struck the woodwork for the third time in the match, when Mata’s free kick from outside the area, bent onto the top of the right post, after Whitehead had pulled down Ramires in the eighty seventh minute. The one way traffic remained until the finish, when Daniel Sturridge had a low strike deflected away from the posts, after Drogba’s well placed pass. It was to be the narrowest of wins for Chelsea but by the most convincing of margins, as Drogba’s winner marked the first African player to get one hundred goals in the league.