August 28th, 2010
It did not rain goals at Stamford Bridge for a change but Florent Malouda and Didier Drogba still came up with two vital strikes to keep Chelsea’s 100% record intact at the top of the Premier League.
• Ancelotti: We weren’t at our best
• Palmer: Blues trot out predictable win
• Premier League Gallery
Malouda expertly converted a first-half opportunity with his right foot against a Stoke side made of much sterner stuff than the Tony Pulis team who surrendered seven at the Bridge back in April.
And Drogba supplied the coup de grace with a second-half penalty after Thomas Sorensen had brought down Nicolas Anelka.
Chelsea even had the luxury of seeing Frank Lampard miss the tamest of first-half penalties.
Roman Abramovich certainly cannot complain with the entertainment on show at Stamford Bridge these days.
Nor with the battling qualities of a Chelsea side who dug out this win as opposed to destroying the opposition as they had done in previous weeks.
Chelsea’s starting line-up showed just one change with Paulo Ferreira coming in for fullback Branislav Ivanovic. who was suffering from a back injury.
For Stoke, goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, linked with Chelsea and reported to have refused to play against Shrewsbury in the Carling Cup in midweek, was on the bench with Thomas Sorensen starting.
But while it was not the goal rout of recent weeks, Chelsea were by far the classier side, giving warning of what was to come within five minutes when Michael Essien split the Stoke defence with a pass into the path of Ashley Cole to set up a chance the England fullback pulled wide.
Stoke also had their chances early on, Dean Whitehead bringing a sharp save from Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech with a snap shot following a neat one-two with Kenwyne Jones and Jonathan Walters lifting a lob on to the top of the Chelsea net.
It would have made it even easier for Chelsea, of course, if Lampard had not missed that penalty on 10 minutes after Ryan Shawcross brought down Drogba.
It was a poor spot kick, side-footed to Sorensen’s left-hand side and the Stoke goalkeeper had no problem falling on the ball.
Sorensen also punched away a savagely-struck free-kick from Drogba in a first-half which could easily have turned into another goal landslide.
Much of that was to do with Essien and Lampard who ran the midfield with precision passing and fluent movement. It was no surprise when the breakthrough came in the 32nd minute.
This time captain John Terry provided the killer pass, threading a ball through for Malouda to run on to and smash a right-foot shot past Sorensen for his fourth goal of the season.
When this Chelsea side get ahead they are difficult to catch. Carlo Ancelotti does not apply the brakes like Jose Mourinho, who was content to shut up shop from a winning position.
They surge forward looking for more goals, none more so than Cole who met a ball floated into the box acrobatically on the volley only to see his shot rattle the Stoke bar and rebound to safety.
Sorensen was required again in the second-half, most notably to save a point-blank header from Drogba following a floated cross from Anelka.
To Stoke’s credit they did not capitulate. They dug in with substitute Glenn Whelan giving them more bite and direction.
Indeed, he provided the shot of the second-half, giving Chelsea something of a fright when he stepped forward and cracked a 25-yard shot against Cech’s crossbar only to see the ball bounce down and away to safety.
But the game was sealed for Chelsea when Sorensen was bedazzled by Anelka’s pace and Drogba slotted home from the penalty spot.
There was just time for Daniel Sturridge, on his 21st birthday, to come on for Anelka and Brazilian midfielder Ramires to make his debut from the bench.
So Chelsea march on. Fourteen league goals scored. None conceded. They look unstoppable.
Ancelotti: We weren’t at our best
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti claimed his players did not play to their best, but that he was pleased to get the win over Stoke. Ancelotti said: ”I was happy because we won but we didn’t have a good, high tempo. It was not our best performance. The tempo was not continuous but we didn’t concede. We kept another clean sheet and stayed top of the table.
”We worked very hard this week. The players had a very strong week and so they were not so sharp.”
Stoke manager Tony Pulis was pleased with his team’s work-rate but accepted his side had been second best.
He said: ”We had our moments but overall Chelsea were the better team. They have some great players and had numerous opportunities but I give credit to our lads for the work they put in.”
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