Drogba's century assures Di Matteo stays right side of fans

Chelsea 1 Stoke 0

Roberto Di Matteo says he has no friends but after victory today the
Chelsea interim manager will certainly have a few more pals to call on.

Didier Drogba, who turns 34 tomorrow, celebrated the Blues' 107th anniversary with his 100th Barclays Premier League goal as Di Matteo's men finally managed to break down 10-man Stoke at Stamford Bridge.

However, Chelsea were far from convincing ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash against Napoli, despite playing almost three-quarters of the game with the advantage.

That was after Stoke forward Ricardo Fuller lost the plot, getting himself sent off for a horrible stamp on Branislav Ivanovic in his first league start since New Year's Day 2011.

That ultimately handed Chelsea victory to lift them back level on points with fourth-placed Arsenal ahead of the latter's game with Newcastle on Monday.

Di Matteo's rescue act began in earnest today after Tuesday night's FA Cup win at Birmingham, with the caretaker manager's top priority securing Champions League qualification.

The Blues, who needed a three-goal victory to reclaim fourth place, should have been ahead inside four minutes, Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross going close to back-heading an own goal and an unmarked Branislav Ivanovic powering over the recalled Frank Lampard's corner.

It was a confident start from the home side, emphasised when Gary Cahill drove forward from the back and unleashed a 10th-minute piledriver Asmir Begovic palmed behind.

Making his first league start of the season, Salif Diao earned an early booking for upending Ramires, who was then inches from glancing in Salomon Kalou's cross.

Cahill had to rescue Chelsea with a block after a slip from John Terry - who sealed his remarkable comeback from knee surgery today - let in Jonathan Walters, who was then hauled back by John Obi Mikel, prompting another caution.

Fuller was lucky to escape a card for tripping Ivanovic as Stoke continued to frustrate their opponents but the forward then well and truly pressed the self-destruct button in the 25th minute.

Irked by a soft Ivanovic tackle, he inexplicably stamped on the defender's groin, earning a straight red.

Raul Meireles dragged wide when well placed on the edge of the area as Chelsea tried to make the extra man count.

They almost did just past the half-hour when Terry's downward header from Lampard's corner bouncing up on to the crossbar, the defender furious at perceived holding by Robert Huth.

Meireles' cross just cleared Drogba and Ivanovic's looping header after a one-two with Lampard almost caught out Begovic.

Di Matteo threw on Juan Mata for Meireles seven minutes from the break, immediately playing a pass that saw Marc Wilson booked for bringing down Ramires.

Lampard almost danced his way through several defenders before Ivanovic wasted a glorious 40th-minute chance, smashing against the bar after Huth's header gifted him the ball.

Ivanovic failed to emerge after the break, with David Luiz coming on at right-back.

Begovic got away with spilling an early Lampard shot before Stoke threw on Wilson Palacios and Matthew Upson for Diao and Wilson, switching to three at the back.

They remained ultra-defensive, with Chelsea lacking the guile to break them down, something that was a constant problem under Andre Villas-Boas.

Terry drilled narrowly wide from 25 yards before Stoke's final change on the hour mark, Kenwyne Jones withdrawn for Cameron Jerome.

Chelsea finally forced Begovic into a save - and a brilliant one at that - when Drogba's 66th-minute free-kick was clawed out of the top corner.

That did not stop Di Matteo sending on Daniel Sturridge for Mikel in search of a goal, ignoring Fernando Torres.

The breakthrough immediately followed, Mata's pinpoint through ball finding Drogba, whose heavy first touch drew Begovic and allowed the striker to round him and slot home his 100th Premier League goal.

Begovic failed to hold another Lampard drive as Stoke finally began to venture from their own half.

Suddenly, Chelsea were on the ropes and Andy Wilkinson even tried his luck with a 45-yard lob.

The home side were still in control but another Terry mistake seven minutes from time let in Jerome, who flashed past the post under pressure from Cahill.

Sturridge twice shot wide from the edge of the box either side of Mata's superb 30-yard free-kick clattering the upright as Chelsea eventually eased home.

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee