Chelsea are the Christmas number 1 after an efficient win against a very rough Stoke opponent.
The Blues, who have seen their eight-point gap at the top of the table diminish in recent weeks, had Terry and Fabregas to thank as it means Chelsea hold their position as table-toppers for Christmas.
It was a fast start to the game. The opening corner by Fabregas brought about the game’s first goal, with John Terry leaping highest to break the deadlock, in his 650th Chelsea appearance.
This settled the Chelsea nerves, particularly with Manchester City creeping up behind them, and the game’s next talking point was in the 20th minute, when Phil Bardsley scythed down Eden Hazard near the corner flag. It was most definitely excessive force but Swarbrick only deemed it worthy of a yellow card.
The brawn over beauty continued into the second half. After soaking up much Stoke pressure, relief was palpable from the 2,000-strong away Chelsea support in the 78th minute. Hazard’s pass to Fabregas was a bit of the heavy side but the ex-Arsenal ace controlled the ball and his mis-kick rolled its way into the net.
It looked like Schurrle, who had been summoned to come on a few seconds before the goal, would then be asked by Mourinho to sit back down thanks to Fabregas’ cushion, but the manager was in the Christmas spirit, allowing the German some game-time as Chelsea saw out the match and can enjoy their Christmas as the star at the top of the tree.
Man of the Match
CESC FABREGAS: Just brilliant as always. Started the scoring with an assist and rounded it off with the killer goal. Mourinho must love him: unlocks defences with his corner to Terry and also eases the pressure with his calm, authoritative stamp on the game, and comes up with the key goal. He’s had a brilliant half-season thus far and tonight showed he’s equally capable of playing a more attacking role. One must also credit Matic for intercepting every pass and coping with Stoke’s physicality, however. 8/10
Mourinho was elated: “It is a victory that means a bit more than the three points. To win here, you need to put more than just your quality. We must play a good game; we did it because we adapted well to their style of play.”
Hughes rues a poor start: “We were frustrated to concede so early on. That’s what you want to avoid. But to be honest I think we gave it a real go.”