Chelsea maintained a three-point lead at the top of the table after their 2-0 win over Stoke City at the Britannia yesterday thanks to goals from captain John Terry and Cesc Fabregas.
Both the teams went with a similar formation; a 4-2-3-1 system with two holding midfielders. Mark Hughes’ side had triumphed in their last meeting against Chelsea at home but got off to the worst possible start this time as Terry’s header from a corner found the back of the net after just 95 seconds on the clock. The goal set Chelsea on their way to a relatively comfortable first half as they dealt well with the crosses that Stoke City threw into the box hoping to find their tall lanky striker Peter Crouch.
Diego Costa had a few good chances in the game with the first coming in the 31st minute when he was played on goal by a wonderful Fabregas through ball, but his effort was wide. It did not matter in the end as Fabregas found the net in the 78th minute after a nicely weighted pass by Eden Hazard was controlled and miss hit into the goal of a helpless Asmir Begovic. Costa should have made it three after some good counter attacking play by Andre Schurrle. The German went past two Stoke players and found Costa, but his effort was thwarted by Begovic.
In between the two goals, Stoke had some half chances as substitute Charlie Adam’s venomous strike swerved away from the goal in the 71st minute. Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois did not have to make too many saves in the game, but was called upon quite a few times during the set pieces and was at his commanding best. Chelsea’ best player however was defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic. The big Serbian was at his best in a game where his side needed a top-drawer performance from him against a physical side like Stoke. He made as many as nine tackles and often broke up Stoke’s play in the final third.
The game was supposed to be a tricky one for Chelsea, but the early goal helped them massively as Stoke had to chase the game from the onset. The potential onslaught was handled well as their defensive midfielders stood out in the team. With Manchester City breathing down their neck, the win was an important one for Mourinho’s men. They face three games in the span of six days starting from the Boxing day clash against West Ham United. After that, they play two games away from home as they’ll travel to Southampton and local rivals Tottenham.