Chelsea are back atop the Premier League table, albeit having played one more game than Liverpool and a pair more than Manchester City. Still, the 3-0 victory today will go a long way toward restoring the wavering confidence of the Chelsea fanbase ahead of a massive European clash.
There was only one team on the pitch for most of the first half, with Chelsea dominating every facet of the game. Stoke did just enough to keep it scoreless for 30 minutes, but Chelsea finally managed to break through when Nemanja Matic found Mohamed Salah unmarked ten yards from goal. Salah then set up Branislav Ivanovic with an inch-perfect cross, but the goal was rightfully called back because the fullback was offside.
The second 45 minutes kicked off with no changes for Jose Mourinho's side, though they looked a little sleepy coming out of the dressing room. Several rough Stoke tackles woke the Blues up quickly enough though, and it began to look as if a second goal was more a matter of 'when' than 'if'.
Mourinho increased the odds of a Chelsea second by bringing Eden Hazard on at the hour mark, replacing Andre Schurrle who had been stamped by Charlie Adam earlier in the half. He immediately hooked up with Salah in the penalty area, and after the Egyptian was wiped out, watched Frank Lampard step up to the spot. His penalty effort was saved, but he managed to get to the rebound to make it 2-0 anyway.
With the result secured, Chelsea began to take their foot off the gas in anticipation of the midweek fixture. Lampard made way for David Luiz, before Willian found the back of the net from just outside of the area to make it 3-0 for the Blues. The scorer then made way for Ashley Cole, while Chelsea closed out a comfortable win.
- It's about time Hazard started a match on the bench. I was never a fan of Interim's ridiculous tendency to rotate for the sake of rotating (Napoli fans probably aren't either), but Jose has been taking things a bit too far in the other direction with his handling of the Belgian.
- Matic is very, very good at this football thing.
- Congratulations to Mohamed Salah for getting his first Chelsea start today, one that will certainly not be the last after an exceptional performance. It wasn't perfect by any stretch, but he didn't look out of place at all in a very expensive attacking unit.
- Remember back when the English media thought that Charlie Adam was a good football player? I still laugh every time I think back to how much love he and Scott Parker used to get.
- I'm glad Frank was the first option to take the Chelsea penalty. That goal was the 211th of Lampard's Chelsea career, and his 250th overall. Congratulations on yet another milestone, Frank.
- I'm really looking forward to seeing Hazard and Salah flanking Diego Costa at some point next season. That will be an awful lot of fun.