This match was somewhat overshadowed by the news of Diego Costa’s impending departure from Chelsea but with Stoke being able to boast results such as a win over Arsenal and a 2-2 draw against Man United, it was set up to be an enthralling encounter.
First Half- A Dream Start
Stoke lined up mirroring the three at the back formation which had made Chelsea champions last season. The Blues’ would be without David Luiz through suspension and Gary Cahill only made the bench. With both sides playing similar formations it seemed we were in for a chess match.
Who would break first?
That question was answered quickly as Azpilicueta played a ball over the top of the Stoke backline and Alvaro Morata raced through to slot home after just 90 seconds. Chelsea nearly made the Potters pay again for their high backline moments later, when Willian and Pedro were close to linking up to double Chelsea’s advantage.
A high octane start continued with Azpilicueta stopping Jese from having a tap-in with some excellent defending. After the goal it was the home side who began to control possession and Chelsea were on the back foot. However, Stoke were yet to threaten Courtois.
As the first half progressed, Chelsea were spending their time camped on the edge of their own box, but no meaningful chances had been created since Morata’s goal. Chelsea continued to be resilient in defence as the 30 minute mark approached.
After Stoke had the larger share of possession and keeping Chelsea’s attack silent since the opening goal, it was the Blues’ who doubled their advantage after Darren Fletcher’s attempted chest back to Butland was intercepted by Pedro who sublimely slotted past the Stoke keeper.
Shortly after the goal, Stoke kept the pressure on, with their best chance coming from an excellent corner by Shaqiri, but no one in red and white could get the final touch to put it in. Stoke did look like scoring, and Chelsea looked defensively vulnerable without David Luiz or Gary Cahill. Since Chelsea’s second, they had controlled possession and at the conclusion of the half had 56% of the ball. Stoke had looked bright going forward but had lacked the killer ball in final third. Even at 0-2, the feeling was this game was far from over.
Second Half- Cruising Home
Just seven minutes into the second half, Chelsea were perhaps lucky to not be reduced to ten men after Marcos Alonso, who picked up his first yellow for clipping the legs of Joe Allen, went through the back of Mame Biram Diouf. He only received a talking to from Mike Dean, and his final warning.
The first chance of the half came from Stoke. A half clearance from Bakayoko was met by Joe Allen who fired narrowly wide as Stoke looked for a way back into the game. Antonio Conte, maybe worried about having to see out another game with ten men, replaced Alonso with Gary Cahill shortly after.
Stoke’s first change came when, surprisingly, Jese was replaced by Peter Crouch. Never too early for the long ball?
Well the substitute looked like an inspired one shortly after as a big chance for Stoke, from a knockdown from Peter Crouch was put wide by Diouf. At the minute the only thing stopping Stoke from getting back into the game, was themselves.
In a move which looked to solidify the midfield, Pedro made way for Cesc Fabregas in the 68th minute. A solid performance by the Spaniard, topped off with an excellent goal. From one Spaniard to another as Morata couldn’t quite get a shot through pressure from Martins Indi.
Again Stoke were creating chances. Joe Allen was denied by a superb challenge by Bakayoko and Fletcher couldn’t atone for his previous error when Shaqiri’s corner met his head but he couldn’t direct it in.
Everything Stoke were creating was coming through Shaqiri. The Swiss magician again whipping in an excellent ball and Choupo Moting was denied by fantastic Thibault Courtois goalkeeping.
Just before that chance, Chelsea replaced Willian with Eden Hazard, a sub no Stoke fan or player wanted to see.
As Stoke began to look increasingly threatening, Alvaro Morata sealed the game. He eased his way passed Fletcher and Johnson before lifting the ball exquisitely over Butland and Chelsea looked to be heading back to London with three points.
Chelsea were unplayable at times and that trend continued. Fabregas picked out Azpilicueta, who chested it down to Morata who slotted home for his hat-trick and Chelsea’s fourth. Fabregas added a new dimension to Chelsea’s play since coming on, really answering his critics who say he’s past it.
In the final stages, Morata had a few chances for his fourth. He dragged a low shot wide, and was unable to divert a low Moses cross into the net. Following these chances, there was three minutes of added time for Chelsea to see out what had in truth been a routine game for the most part.
With the form both Manchester teams are in, Chelsea need to get big results and today that was exactly what they got. Morata was electric and had an edge to his game seldom seen in Diego Costa. After the opening day loss to Burnley, Chelsea didn’t look like champions, but surely now they need to be considered seriously as contenders for the title. An emphatic 0-4 win for the Blues.