Post by Football News on Sept 23, 2017 16:42:06 GMT
Stoke 0 - 4 Chelsea
Álvaro Morata strikes treble for Chelsea in crushing defeat of Stoke
Away team scorers Alvaro Morata 2 Rodriguez Pedro 30 Alvaro Morata 77 Alvaro Morata 82
Antonio Conte was his usual animated self on the touchline, pacing up and down and waving his arms around, yet this was one of those afternoons when the Chelsea manager could have put his feet up, sat back and enjoyed the show as the outstanding Álvaro Morata took centre stage with a superb hat-trick, taking his tally to seven goals in as many games and putting to bed that debate about whether the Premier League champions are missing Diego Costa.
It was some performance from Morata, who presumably appreciated Conte’s compliment 24 hours earlier, when the Italian described the club-record signing as the type of person a father would be happy for his daughter to marry. Chelsea fans have already fallen in love with him and were chanting the striker’s name long before this one-sided contest was brought to an end.
With a trip to Atlético Madrid to come on Wednesday and Manchester City visiting Stamford Bridge next Saturday, this was perfect preparation for Chelsea ahead of a crucial week. Stoke, on the other hand, were desperately poor and contributed to their own downfall on a day when they never recovered from going behind inside two minutes. Pedro scored Chelsea’s other goal and by the end it had turned into an exercise in damage limitation for Stoke, with Morata squandering a couple of late chances to inflict more pain.
Chelsea hardly need a helping hand but Stoke proved to be obliging opponents, with Mark Hughes’s team conceding two awful goals inside the opening half an hour. With Kevin Wimmer and Ryan Shawcross injured, and Kurt Zouma ineligible to play against his parent club, Stoke were up against it from the start defensively, although that was no excuse for the way in which they handed Chelsea the initiative.
There were only 80 seconds on the clock when Morata scored the first, ruthlessly punishing a static and makeshift three-man central defence in which Glen Johnson and Erik Pieters, two full-backs by trade, played either side of Bruno Martins Indi. Tiémoué Bakayoko started the move deep inside the Chelsea half, wriggling out of trouble with some neat footwork before the ball eventually found its way to César Azpilicueta. The Spaniard looked up and played a long, floated pass that picked out Morata’s intelligent run in behind Martins Indi, who was caught ball-watching. Time seemed to stand still as Morata advanced, took a touch and slipped the ball past Jack Butland.
It was a terrible start for Stoke and worse was to come following a dreadful error by Darren Fletcher. Stood about 30 yards from goal, the Scotland international tried to chest the ball in the direction of Martins Indi, but instead gifted possession to Pedro. Quick as flash, Pedro pounced on the mistake and struck a beautifully placed shot from the edge of the area across Butland and into the far corner. Two shots on target, two Chelsea goals.
Stoke huffed and puffed in between, with Xherdan Shaqiri showing a few nice touches and trying to make something happen, but the home team never really looked like scoring in the first half. The closest they came was when Joe Allen delivered a cross from the right that Mame Diouf hooked wide with an acrobatic overhead kick.
The game felt a little flat, all too easy for Chelsea, but it came alive early in the second half after a couple of fractious exchanges. Marcos Alonso, who was already on a booking following a needless foul little more than 60 seconds later, brought down Diouf and the Stoke supporters bayed for a second yellow card. Mike Dean, the referee, called Alonso over but decided that a telling off was enough. Conte, wisely, got the substitutes’ board up quickly and Alonso departed, with Gary Cahill coming on in his place.
Hughes also made a change, replacing Jesé Rodríguez with Peter Crouch in an attempt to give Stoke a bit more of a presence and a threat up front. Crouch made an immediate impact with a towering header, astutely knocking the ball down for Diouf, who was slightly off balance as he arrived at the far post and thrashed at right-footed shot that sailed over.
The balance of the game shifted a little as Stoke started to play with more urgency. Fletcher, who had a bad day at the office, should have reduced the deficit with a free header but he made a pig’s ear of an attempt to nod in Shaqiri’s free-kick and the ball ended up running harmlessly off his left leg with the goal yawning invitingly in front of him.
Morata was not as generous. His second was a beauty and came about after Bakayoko charged down Johnson’s clearance. Running from the halfway line, Morata sprinted clear on the left, slipped past Fletcher with embarrassing ease and clipped the ball past Butland. The 24-year-old completed his hat-trick when he tapped in Azpilcueta’s unselfish pass for Chelsea’s fourth.