After two recent home defeats, Chelsea again looked far more comfortable on the road as they fought hard to get a breakthrough before cruising to the three points in the second half. The crucial goal came from an unlikely source in first-half stoppage time as Jonathan Walters turned the ball into his own net. The forward repeated the unfortunate trick after the break to give Chelsea a crucial second before a Frank Lampard penalty and an Eden Hazard strike rounded off a good afternoon for the Blues.
After another listless performance from Fernando Torres in a midweek Capital One Cup defeat, Demba Ba was chosen to lead the line. And the recent signing from Newcastle had the best chance to break the deadlock in the first half. But from Lampard’s chipped pass over the defense Ba’s first-time effort was impressively saved by Asmir Begovic.
It was looking as though Stoke would maintain their impressive defensive record heading into half time, before they conceded right at the death. Hazard and Cesar Azpilicueta combined down the right with the Spaniard chipping an inviting cross to the back post. Juan Mata was looking to turn the ball goalward, but Walters, more accustomed to finishing at the other end, got there first and stooped to head the ball into his own net.
Incredibly Chelsea profited from the same fortune to get what always looked like being a decisive second goal just pas the hour mark. This time it was a corner from the right that was sent into the six-yard box and, with Begovic staying on his line, Walters tried to prevent Lampard from getting a clear head on goal, but instead the ball went off the top of his head and into the top corner of the net.
There was an element of fortune about Chelsea’s third goal as well. Pressed from behind by Robert Huth, while Ryan Shawcross slid across in front, Mata went down in the box, although there appeared to be minimal contact. Predictably, Lampard made no mistake from the spot as he moved closer to securing Chelsea’s all-time scoring record by drilling the ball high down the middle.
There was little fortuitous about Chelsea's stunning fourth goal. Hazard showed why he was so keenly pursued this summer as he picked the ball up 30 yards out and after cutting past one defender unleashed a powerful left-footed effort into the top corner past the despairing dive of Begovic.
All that was left was for Walters to complete a day he will likely want to forget as soon as possible. After Stoke won what appeared to be a soft penalty for substitute John Terry’s challenge on Walters, the Republic of Ireland international smashed the resulting spotkick off and over the bar.