Stoke 0 v 4 - Official Chelsea Match Report
The one bright spot in an otherwise dire first half was a move when Chelsea strung a whole bunch of passes together (to cries from the Stoke fans of, 'Boring! Boring!'). A move that ended up with Eden Hazard and Bemba Ba combining brilliantly to set up Super Franky Lampard from a metre and a half out. Only for the shot to be saved by Stoke's very impressive keeper, Begovic, when he stuck out his right leg in the nick of time.
Bravery favours the fortunate however, and deep into first half injury time a cross came in from the right and Jonathan Walters provided a beautiful moment of keystone cop defending by heading into an unguarded net. And as the old saying goes, there is no better time to score than just before half-time!
Chelsea played a lot better after the break and started stringing passes together and bossing the play. But Stoke too were playing with increased urgency (no doubt born out of a feeling of injustice at having to go in at half time one nil down) and were really charging up and down the field and throwing their weight around. And they are a very big team to start with!
Things went from bad to worse for Stoke on the 62nd minute when that man Jonathan Walters popped up again to score his second own goal of the game; and wonder of wonder miracle of miracles Chelsea were suddenly two nil up. At Stoke. A team that hadn't lost at home for over 12 months. Whereas the first own goal spurred on Stoke, the second own goal had the opposite effect, and seemed to knock the wind out of their sails. This allowed Chelsea to really start bossing the match (without really creating that many clear-cut chances).
Stoke manager Tony Pullis said in the post match interview that, "It just wasn't meant to be our day". And how right he was! Because, with the score at 0 v 2, Mata gave away possession extremely cheaply and Stoke went bombing down the left wing, and won themselves a penalty from the ever clumsy Dave. Fortunately the EPL's sexiest lines woman already had her flag up, and the penalty never eventuated. Had they scored then, the score would've been 1 v 2 and it would've been game on!
On 65 min it was all over bar the shouting, when Mata was bundled over in the area and Chelsea received a very fortuitous penalty decision. (At which point my girlfriend Alex and I both cried in unison: 'Let Walters take it and get his hat-trick!")
Naturally Frank stepped up and put his foot through the ball and it was three nil. That goal by the way, now makes him Chelsea's second top goalscorer in our history, with 193 goals. One more than Chelsea legend Kerry Dixon.
Five minutes later Hazard rubbed salt into their wounds when he found himself in a pocket of space some 30 yards out and fired into the top left-hand corner. Replays showed his shot took the merest of deflections off a Stoke defender's head, which is why their keeper seemed to misjudge it.
With the clock ticking down, Chelsea brought on John Terry and played with five at the back (why, Rafa, why?). And it was our fearless leader, in his first game back since injury, that gave away a penalty late on. Stoke very kindly gave the penalty to Walters. At which point we knew - we just knew - that he was going to miss. And so he did, blasting the ball onto the crossbar and nto row Z!
Skinny from this game is that Mata (despite his brilliance) really annoys me when he pulls out of tackles. Which is all that time! I appreciate he's not big, but being small has nothing to do with your ability or willingness to tackle hard. Chelsea legend Dennis Wise was a hobbit, but that didn't stop him being the most ferocious tackler of his generation. So why the f*ck doesn't Mata stick his boot in from time to time? It really infuriates me when a player is too scared to tackle. Yes I know it's not his job, but defending is a team sport in football, and if the ball is there to be won, stick your God damn boot in!
Make no mistake this game would've ended differently had that penalty been awarded to Stoke (after a Mata mistake). And if it had, you could have directly attributed that change in fortunes to Mata's p*ssy tackling. Sorry to sound so hard on Mata (a play I love), but in a close game, it is often the team that wins the 50-50 challenges that wins the match. And having one of your midfielders be too afraid to go in for a 50-50 challenge, is a recipe for disaster.
Remember Joe Cole in his Chelsea pomp? Joe Cole is no bigger than Juan Mata, but Joe Cole is English. And English players grow up playing a far more physical style of game than they do in Spain. Well I have news you Johnny Foreigners, you're playing in England now, so man the f*ck up already!
The other take out from this game is that Demab Ba started in place of Torres, and it was interesting to see him play a full match. How did he play? Well, in his defence, he didn't get much service from the wingers. But he did make some timely runs and passes, and with better finishing from his teammates, could have been responsible for setting up two goals. So all in all a pretty solid first full game. And here's hoping he continues to start in place of Torres.
Brian M Logan