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Blues stoke the Firepower

Written By: Robert Halter

Stoke City made their ninth Premier League visit to Stamford Bride on New Year’s eve and the Potters were still without a win in London’s SW6. On six minutes, after a lay off by Willian, the ball was driven wide of the left post from N’Golo Kante. In the eighteenth minute from a floated delivery by Cesc Fabregas, the ball was rammed by Diego Costa at the Potters shot stopper, Lee Grant, who made a sprawling save before the ball rebounded back to him off his own player, Bruno Martins Indi. On twenty two minutes, Grant was forced to dive to his left and palm away a header by Blues captain, Gary Cahill from a Fabregas corner. Four minutes later from an Xhedran Shaqiri corner, a header by Charlie Adam was guided past the far post. In the thirty third minute from a long delivery by David Luiz, as Grant fended the ball away from Costa, it then took an instinctive stop by Grant to turn over Eden Hazard’s fierce strike but the Potters hopes were short lived as from the corner by Fabregas, a thumping header by Cahill, crashed into the left side of the net, to put Chelsea in the driving seat, as Marcos Alonso tumbled to the floor. After a handball by Adam from a ricochet off Hazard, a free kick by Costa, was bent over the wall but high and wide in the fortieth minute. But a minute into the second half, Stoke were back on level terms, as after Erik Pieters was pulled down by Cesar Azpilicueta, a floating free kick by Adam was knocked on by Peter Crouch, and the ball was scrambled into the left corner by a toe poke by Indi. The Blues looked for a quick response through Hazard’s inventive play, but Willian miscued a strike wide of the right post. On fifty two minutes, from a well placed pass by Victor Moses, the ball was driven narrowly wide of the right post by Willian. A minute later, Willian and Hazard combined before Costa brought out a save by Grant, on the right side of the area. But the Blues restored their lead on fifty seven minutes, as Moses cut the ball in from the right, and after a lay off by Hazard, a curling strike by Willian flew past Grant, into the left side of the goal. Chelsea pressed forward again instantly but Hazard’s cross was too far over for the advancing Costa. The Potters then changed Shaqiri with Bojan and Ibrahim Afellay with Giannelli Imbula. On sixty three minutes, after an incisive pass by Fabregas, the ball was won back by Hazard, before the ball was ballooned over by Costa. But Stoke found a route back in the game, as Bojan unsettled the Blues defence, and from a ball across by Mame Biram Diouf, a right footed shot by Crouch was turned high into the middle of the net. But again Chelsea found a way to take the lead again, as Fabregas slid the ball through to Willian on the right, whose looping strike went over Grant, into the roof of the goal. The Blues later changed Fabregas with Nemanja Matic. On seventy six minutes, after the ball was given away by Crouch, from a fast breakaway move, a ball across by Willian to Hazard, was then met at full force by Costa, who drilled the ball over. In the eightieth minute, from a cross on the right by Glen Johnson, the outstretched leg of Azpilicueta, kept out the threat of Crouch in the area. Antonio Conte then went for more defensive solidity with Branislav Ivanovic replacing Moses before Willian was taken off for Michy Batshuayi. But Chelsea sealed victory in the eighty fifth minute, when from an Alonso throw in and a poor headed clearance by Adam, the ball was smashed into the top right corner by Costa. In the final moments of the match, from an assist by Kante, after driving his way forward, Alonso struck a low effort past the right post and then in stoppage time, Alonso had a shot deflected off Ryan Shawcross from Matic’s through ball, as the Blues ended 2016 in style as Chelsea topped the table by six points, having won thirteen league games on the bounce.