Chelsea 3 Stoke City 0 match report: Lampard keeps Chelsea's ‘impossible dream' of title alive

Jose Mourinho might have given up on the League title but Chelsea return to the top of the table thanks to an outstanding display from their long-serving midfielder

Stamford Bridge

A week after Jose Mourinho announced that it was “impossible” for Chelsea to win the Premier League amid the disgruntlement of defeat at Crystal Palace, his team returned to the top of the table, albeit only a point ahead of Liverpool, who play at West Ham this afternoon.

Manchester City, a point further back and with an extra game in hand, remain best placed but Liverpool’s home games against the two other contenders – City next Sunday and Chelsea three weeks today – still hold the key to the outcome of an unpredictable season.

Not that Mourinho was prepared to change his assessment significantly, even if leading 3-0 with fully 20 minutes left thanks to goals from Mohamed Salah, the outstanding Frank Lampard and Willian allowed thoughts and tactics to turn towards making up the 3-1 deficit in Tuesday’s second leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Paris St-Germain.

Chelsea will at the very least approach it in good heart and with the full support of a noisy home crowd who saw them overwhelm a disappointing Stoke City; the total of 18 shots to four in favour of the hosts was a fair reflection of the balance of play.

“If we concede one against Paris or have a clean sheet we have a chance, so it’s important to defend well,” the manager said. As for the position at the top, he added: “The situation is the same. The table is again fake, with lots of matches in hand.” With Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore standing at the back of the room, he added a new criticism: “I don’t think it’s the best image, playing matches in the last midweek of the season.”

What would have made Mourinho happier would have been a goal for Fernando Torres, who said in an Independent interview this week that he wanted to make himself Mourinho’s best option on a regular basis. Allowed a start, unlike last Wednesday, while Eden Hazard and Oscar were rested, he ran willingly but still without registering a first Premier League goal since early January, or coming close.

Fortunately the Egyptian Salah, starting for the first time, and Andre Schürrle were more effective down the flanks. Nemanja Matic, ineligible for the Champions League, was back in midfield and much more solid than David Luiz, which crucially allowed Lampard to do much more of what he should have done last week at Selhurst Park, bursting forward in support of the attack. Despite the changes further forward, Mourinho stuck with his now regular back four, having tempted fate by praising them so fulsomely before the “joke” goals conceded in Paris. They were untroubled almost all game, Petr Cech having only one straightforward save to make, when Peter Odemwingie, after four goals in three games, chanced his arm from 20 yards.

Stoke, revitalised under Mark Hughes, know they have much to play for despite this result: a highest finish for almost 40 years; most points, wins and goals in a Premier League season; even ending the campaign as highest placed Midlands side for what would be the first time ever.

Already they have completed more passes in a season than under Tony Pulis’s more fundamentalist regime. They were not averse to longer balls to try to turn the Chelsea defence but the confidence gained from three successive victories was only in evidence briefly before the home side began pushing them back. “I was disappointed because in recent weeks we’ve been better than that,” Hughes said.

Lampard was the key figure, even though not involved in the opening goal. In the 10th minute he took part three times in the move that set up up Torres, who dragged a shot wide from 20 yards – an early indication that this might be one of those days when things just did not go his way. Asmir Begovic pulled off the first of several saves, this one from Willian’s deflected shot and then redeemed himself after a bad clearance by smothering Torres’s effort from close in as Erik Pieters unwisely chested down a cross. The goal Chelsea deserved arrived just after the half-hour mark and could be said to have stemmed from smart work by a young ballboy, who caught a Stoke clearance to applause and immediately gave it to Cesar Azpilicueta. His throw-in sent Matic to the byline to cut back a low pass that found Salah for a left-footed shot that flew past Begovic’s outstretched leg.

It would have been 2-0 at the interval had Ivanovic pushed his head forward a fraction later before turning Lampard’s centre into the net. The offside decision was about as close as it was possible to be. 

Two half-time substitutions indicated Hughes’s displeasure with his team’s performance while the introduction of Hazard only 13 minutes after the resumption suggested Mourinho was anxious about the single-goal margin. He need not have been. The Belgian’s first intervention, twisting and turning before supplying Salah, led to a penalty and the overdue second goal.

Andy Wilkinson clearly brought down the Egyptian and although Begovic beat out Lampard’s spot-kick, the midfielder beat him to the rebound to score.

The crowd were willing a goal for Torres, but the best he could do was taking a defender away as Willian curled in a fine third goal to relax the manager and those supporters who may believe their team are not entirely out of contention yet.

Line-ups:

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Matic, Lampard (Luiz, 70); Willian (Cole, 77), Salah,  Schürrle (Hazard, 58); Torres.

Stoke (4-2-3-1): Begovic; Cameron (Wilkinson, 46) , Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters; Nzonzi, Whelan; Odemwingie, Palacios (Adam, 46), Arnautovic; Crouch (Walters, 77).

Referee: Lee Probert

Man of the match: Lampard (Chelsea)

Match rating: 6/10

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried