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Birthday boy Mourinho sees Blues progress


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Chelsea will face Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in the fifth round of the FA Cup, after a comfortable defeat of Stoke City earlier this evening.

Midfield maestro Oscar scored the only goal of the game when he stepped up to curl a delicious free-kick into the far corner of Asmir Begovic's goal.

Despite a number of great chances - including later efforts from Oscar and Andre Schurrle that rattled the woodwork - the Blues were unable to extend their lead as Stoke, somehow, managed to escape the hiding many were predicting.

The last time the two sides met, Chelsea had capitulated to hand the Potters a stunning 3-2 win back in early December, but the Blues' impeccable form since that shock result was continued here, much to the delight of birthday boy José Mourinho.

In a week where Chelsea fans have lamented the sale of Juan Mata to Manchester United, it seemed somewhat inevitable that Oscar, the man Mourinho has put his faith in throughout the entirety of the season, would offer the greatest contribution possible with his wondrous winning goal.

It was a free-kick as glorious as you are likely to see, measured to perfection as it nestled inside the side-netting. The Brazilian's ninth goal of the season was of such a great degree of quality that Mourinho may well end up being vindicated in allowing Mata to move on.

Equally as impressive was full débutant Nemanja Matic, who was excellent alongside the returning Frank Lampard at the heart of Chelsea's midfield. On this evidence, the Serbian international will offer the Blues an added degree of steel in the midfield - something notably missing in many performances, particularly earlier on in the season.

Another new addition to the Chelsea squad is Mohamed Salah, the 21 year old Egyptian winger, who today arrives from FC Basel, having scored three goals in four appearances against the Blues. If Salah takes to the Premier League in the same way Matic has done so, his arrival will be another shrewd Chelsea signing.

The Blues began the game brightly, with Samuel Eto'o desperately close to adding to the hat-trick he netted against Manchester United last weekend when he sidefooted wide in just the second minute.

That set the tone for a frenetic opening period, which also saw Stoke striker Peter Crouch trouble Mark Schwarzer on a couple of occasions, most notably when the former England striker beat Petr Cech's stand-in to a wicked cross from Jon Walters. Immediately at the other end, Schurrle was denied by a brilliant Ryan Shawcross challenge as Oscar looked to play the German through.

Oscar's magnificent free-kick came after 27 minutes, and it was not long before the Blues carved out an opportunity for a second, but Lampard somehow failed to make contact with Eden Hazard's pull-back. That moment would characterise what would become something of a frustrating afternoon for the Chelsea forwards.

First Oscar hit the post with a low drive before Lampard volleyed over from a Branislav Ivanovic cross. After the break, the Blues again found the woodwork a stubborn barrier as Schurrle saw a fierce drive deflect off the post.

If it was not the woodwork that served to foil Chelsea it was the inspired Asmir Begovic, who made a brilliant low save to stop Frank Lampard from putting the result beyond all doubt, before pulling off an arguably better save later on when he parried over David Luiz's thundering free-kick.

The Blues were not to be denied a deserved win, however, and despite moderate pressure late on from the visitors, the Blues looked thoroughly contented with a win achieved by playing in little higher than third gear. A considerably greater effort will be required in the next round, though...

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