Chelsea 1-0 Stoke City
Last Updated: Sat, 10 Mar 2012 17:04
Chelsea overcame a nervy second half display to secure a deserved 1-0 win over a poor Stoke side down to ten men.
With Roberto Di Matteo keen to propel the Blues to a win in his first game in charge in the league, he started with members of the Blues' old guard, Frank Lampard, John Terry, Ashley Cole, and Didier Drogba. That move seemed like a wise one as Chelsea piled the pressure on Stoke, who far too often failed to back up their defensive play with attacking moves of any kind.
Branislav Ivanovic was at the heart of most of Chelsea's attacking play in the opening 45 minutes, the defender coming close to scoring three times, brushing the bar with a stinging shot on his third attempt, whilst Gary Cahill and Didier Drogba forced decent saves from Asmir Begovic.
Chelsea's task was made slightly easier 25 minutes into the game, when Ricardo Fuller stamped on Ivanovic, earning himself a needless red card, and both John Terry and Raul Meireles came close minutes after to taking advantage of Chelsea's numerical advantage.
Di Matteo replaced Meireles with Juan Mata just before half time in an attempt to inject some more creativity into Chelsea's play, but that move didn't really reap rewards until midway through the second half, the Blues enjoying plenty of possession but finding Stoke a tough nut to crack.
When the Chelsea goal did come, though, Mata was at the heart of it, the tricky little winger playing a lovely reverse ball to Drogba, who carried the ball beyond the Stoke defence before rounding Begovic and slotting home.
A shot from Cameron Jerome and the intervention of the woodwork keeping Mata at bay for a second goal for the Blues made for an anxious final 10 minutes, but Chelsea clung on to their lead to finish the game with all three points, a result which piles the pressure on Arsenal on Monday night ahead of their game against Newcastle.