Chelsea sink Stoke to consolidate top spot
Chelsea ensured they will spend Christmas Day on top of the Premier League as goals from John Terry and Cesc Fabregas gave the leaders a gritty 2-0 victory at Stoke City on Monday. It was not the most fluent performance from Jose Mourinho’s side but, at a venue where Arsenal recently lost 3-2, it was the result and not the performance which mattered most and the Blues now sit three points clear of second placed Manchester City heading into the hectic festive programme.
City’s win over Crystal Palace on Saturday had drawn them level on points ith Chelsea, but this was an emphatic response from the west Londoners as they bid to wrestle the title from the Eastlands outfit.
The only concern for Chelsea was a late injury to Belgium playmaker Eden, Hazard, who was replaced after getting a kick to his foot following a challenge by Jon Walters. “These victories mean more than three points, to win and get three points the players need the right spirit and mentality.To win here they must be a really very good team with the capacity to adapt to Stoke’s style of play. The three point lead we have is a little advantage, it is a little pillow we have to protect us. We go home happy and pleased with what we did,” Mourinho said.
Chelsea could not have got off to a better start as they took the lead inside the opening 90 seconds when Terry rose highest above Geoff Cameron to head a Fabregas corner past Asmir Begovic. It was the former England captain’s first league goal of the season and a 12th assist of the season for Spain midfielder Fabregas.
Mourinho’s men coped better with the blustery conditions at the Britannia Stadium and came close to a second as Diego Costa dragged a shot wide of the post. Stoke defender Phil Bardsley was only booked for a late challenge on Hazard on the touchline, a decision that prompted Mourinho to protest from outside the technical area.
And that incident seemed to spur on Stoke, who went close within seconds as Steven N’Zonzi’s deflected shot was pushed behind by Thibaut Courtois. But it should have been 2-0 on the half hour as a Fabregas pass breached the Stoke offside trap and Costa ran through before dragging his tame shot wide. Stoke created brief moments of optimism at the start of the second half with Peter Crouch heading over from Bardsley’s cross from the right.