Oscar made his first full start for the Blues after his stunning debut in the Champions League midweek while Petr Cech took the captain’s armband as John Terry and Frank Lampard were on the bench.
We dictated early play with Stoke seemingly content to get as many men behind the ball as possible while allowing the likes of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar to keep possession so long as they didn’t encroach on the penalty area.
Struggling to find a way to break Stoke down we were lucky not go a goal behind as Glen Whelan whipped in a free-kick which John Walters ghosted at the near post and then flicked in a header which fortunately for us clipped the top of the crossbar.
Branislav Ivanovic had a shout for a penalty waved away after he turned past Huth in the box with replays showing he went to ground a little too readily for referee Michael Oliver’s liking although there was some contact between the players.
We continued to dictate without finding a way through until Fernando Torres missed our best chance of the half. Juan Mata clipped a simple ball over the top of the back four from the edge of the area. Torres couldn’t bring it down on his chest and Begovic was off his line smartly smothering the danger.
Stoke’s resilience was beginning to frustrate both the Chelsea players and the fans. David Luiz tried his luck with an ambitious free-kick and Hazard scuffed a shot wide of the far post which only added to the tension around Stamford Bridge.
Shortly afterwards we had Cech to thank, called into action as the half drew to a close. First he denied Marc Wilson from long-range and then dived smartly to save from a Michael Kightly header.
We started the second half brightly and were denied another appeal for a penalty when Oscar burst through the middle before going down under a challenge from Huth. There was definite contact between the two although it was outside of the box, but referee Oliver opted to show a harsh yellow to the Brazilian for diving.
We continued to hammer at the Potters’ door, with first Oscar and then Torres being denied by Begovic before Crouch attempted a volley at the other end which sailed over the crossbar.
Mata thought he had finally found a way through after some brilliant interplay between Oscar and Moses but a last-ditch tackle from Ryan Shawcross denied him at the near post.
A moment later Oscar cut inside from the byline and hit a low drive which Begovic just managed to cling on to with Mata waiting to pounce.
Both sides continued to look lively going forward going into the final period of the game. First John Obi Mikel dragged his shot wide of Begovic’s left-hand post before substitutes Michael Owen and Kenwyne Jones combined to tee up Matthew Etherington inside the area, who likewise fluffed his lines.
It was a miss which Stoke would ultimately rue, as we finally broke the deadlock with just five minutes remaining. Ashley Cole burst forward with the ball from the edge of his own area and continued into the box after laying off to substitute Frank Lampard. He found Hazard, whose cross was flicked on by Mata and Cole was left to dink the ball over Begovic from just six yards out to the relief of the Chelsea fans.
Stoke tried to rally in the closing minutes but we held on for all three points.
We play again at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night in a Capital One cup tie vs. Wolves.
Gill Reeves – CSG disabled rep.
- 01 Cech
- 02 Ivanovic
- 03 Cole
- 04 David Luiz- Booked
- 24 Cahill
- 07 Ramires
- 11 Oscar – Booked
- 12 Mikel (Lampard – 81′ )
- 17 Hazard (Moses – 61′ )
- 09 Torres
- 10 Mata (Terry – 88′ )
- 22 Turnbull
- 26 Terry
- 28 Azpilicueta
- 34 Bertrand
- 06 Romeu
- 08 Lampard
- 13 Moses
- 01 Begovic
- 02 Cameron
- 04 Huth
- 12 Wilson
- 17 Shawcross
- 06 Whelan
- 15 Nzonzi
- 16 Adam – Booked (Owen – 64′ )
- 21 Kightly (Etherington – 71′ )
- 19 Walters
- 25 Crouch (Jones – 75′ )
- 29 Sorensen
- 20 Upson
- 30 Shotton
- 18 Whitehead
- 26 Etherington
- 09 Jones
- 10 Owen