Needing only not to lose the match by a two-goal deficit or better to keep the top spot in the Premier League standings, Chelsea did far more as they ran over Stoke to take the three points with relative ease. Despite bitter memories of last season where the Blues lost a physical match to the Potters at Britannia Stadium, Chelsea came into the match confident. Manager Jose Mourinho expressed confidence that the referee would be able to maintain control when asked about the physicality of the Stoke side. Having Diego Costa up front shoulder to shoulder with the Stoke defenders, the Blues gave as good as they got this time around.
Not three minutes into the match, Chelsea struck early of a set piece goal from defender John Terry to take a quick lead. They kept that lead through the half. They did control play for much of the first half, with a couple of good scoring opportunities just missed, but were unable to secure a second goal. A theme of the match for Stoke city was an inability to close on the attack. They made some good plays passing in their own end to begin their counter-attack, but a lack of coordination between players as they approached the goal made for missed connections and poorly chosen shots.
With just under 15 minutes to go, Cesc Fabregas put a second goal in to make it 2-0. The Blues kept that lead for the rest of the match. Though Stoke showed some limited signs of life in the last five minutes, it proved to be a fairly one-sided affair. Taking the three points, Chelsea has pulled further ahead in the standings in front of Manchester United to maintain the lead on the table. Going into Friday’s match against West Ham United, they will be looking to continue their momentum into the year-end schedule and be comfortable going into the January break, City being the only club realistically capable of giving them any real challenges in that regard.
Mourinho, of course, will not be satisfied to rest on his laurels in January, content with the state of the squad. Though there are very few rumors about his actual intentions, beyond a scavenger-like watch on the contract negotiations of Sergio Ramos, anyone who has watched him operate on the transfer market will be certain that there are moves that he is working on in anticipation of the break. Working from a position of relative strength with the club sitting in the top spot, he will not be forced to show his hand early this campaign.
Though a largely predictable result, Monday night’s defeat of Stoke City has provided Mourinho and his Chelsea squad a measure of satisfaction, keeping them in the position of being chased rather than having to chase another club in their pursuit of the top spot. If his squad can weather the hectic year-end schedule, it will leave the club in the driver’s seat as the last half of the campaign begins. That is exactly how Mourinho likes it.
Commentary By Jim Malone
Live viewing of Chelsea/Stoke City match, 12/22/14
Image courtesy of In Mou We Trust – Flickr License