HAPPY DAYS: Danny Drinkwater (centre) is mobbed by team mates after scoring his first goal for the Blues
CHELSEA CAPPED the end of the year with a five-star performance against Stoke City with a 5-0 win at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Goals from Antonio Rudiger, Danny Drinkwater, Pedro, Willian and Davide Zappacosta ensured all three points for the Blues.
Antonio Conte decided to rest his talisman Eden Hazard in a match that he would have expected to win comfortably. Stoke have only won two games in the last two months, the kind of form that has seen them dragged into the relegation zone.
It didn’t take long for the current league champions to assert their authority when on two minutes Willian’s beautifully lofted free-kick found the head of Rudiger to make it 1-0.
Chelsea doubled their lead not long after when Pedro’s blocked cross fell to Drinkwater just outside of the box for the former Leicester City player to fire home his first goal for his new club. It was a brilliant half-volley that left Jack Butland rooted to the spot.
The home side continued to dominate the half with Willian and Pedro causing the Stoke back line all kinds of problems. Alvaro Morata found himself through on goal after being spotted by Willian but the frustrated Spaniard was denied by frame of the Stoke keeper a quarter of the way through the game.
Conte knew that a win would take his side second in the table temporarily and it was clear that that message had been transmitted to the players.
It was Pedro’s turn to join in on the act on 23 minutes when lovely footwork from Willian found the Spanish international on the edge of the box before the number seven neatly got the ball out of his feet to flash his shot perfectly across the Potters’ goalkeeper to make it 3-0.
Stoke only clear cut chance of the half came when Charlie Adam’s ball over the top saw Mame Biram Diouf take the ball in his stride and slot past Thibaut Courtois, only for the Senegalese international to be ruled offside.
Sadio Berahino had a rear opportunity to get his name on the score sheet in the second half when Adam found his teammate with a ball over the top but the 24-year-old’s shot was comfortably saved by the Chelsea goalkeeper.
It was chance that the away side were inevitably going to be made to rue after Chelsea, finally, were rewarded for their pressure. Missed chances for both Pedro and Morata were soon forgotten after Willian slotted ho,e from the spot after being fouled by Geoff Cameron in the box on 72 minutes.
The icing on the cake came in the 89th minute after Zappacosta pounced on a loose ball after a poor clearance by the Stoke defence and struck the ball passed Butland’s bottom corner.
This was a routine win for Chelsea but City manager Mark Hughes will be disappointed with the manner in which his team lost. Questions will continue to be asked about his team’s poor performances and whether he’s still the man to keep Stoke in the league.
Read every story in our hardcopy newspaper for free by downloading the app.