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Fabregas fires Chelsea to Christmas number one


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Cesc Fabregas played a starring role as Chelsea beat Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.

After Manchester City's recent run of good form continued against a hapless Crystal Palace on Saturday, Chelsea found their Premier League lead reduced merely to goal difference ahead of a potential banana skin away trip to the Midlands.

But Fabregas' corner in just the second minute allowed John Terry to settle Chelsea nerves with his 60th goal for the club, before the Spanish magician himself struck twelve minutes from time.

José Mourinho will fool very few people with his consistent selection policy, though one surprise saw Fabregas remain in a more advanced role behind Diego Costa - leaving John Mikel Obi to sit alongside Nemanja Matic at the heart of the midfield. Oscar made way for the Nigerian.

And it was a decision that paid dividends for Mourinho, as the former Arsenal and Barcelona man orchestrated an efficient away performance that sees the Blues top the pile at Christmas.

The previous three times Chelsea have been top of the Premier League on 25 December they have gone on to lift the trophy come May, and in this gutsy performance they demonstrated that their ability to dig deep when under the cosh has not diminished.

But this was not the type of game where the Blues sat deep and looked to contain the long-ball threat of their opponents - instead they attacked from the off and in the first attack of the match, Branislav Ivanovic saw a shot deflect out for a corner. The resultant set-piece saw Fabregas tease in the perfect ball for Terry to rise highest and guide a header past the exposed Asmir Begovic.

That was followed by some lovely movement deep inside the Stoke half between Eden Hazard and Costa, which ended with the latter firing tamely wide of the upright, but the gauntlet had well and truly been thrown down by Mourinho's charges with an effervescent start.

Stoke rallied - but only after a horror-tackle by their full-back Phil Bardsley, who scythed down Hazard after the Belgian had skipped past him. The former Sunderland man was lucky to escape without any more punishment than just a yellow card, and that set the tone for a bad-tempered affair where Stoke showed that old habits die hard.

They nearly equalised when Steven Nzonzi's low long-range strike went through Terry and forced a brilliant one-handed low save by Thibault Courtois down to his left on his return from injury. In having already taken a number of crosses confidently, the Belgian was certainly showing no ill effects.

Costa then wasted a great chance to apply the proverbial sucker punch when he uncharacteristically wasted a glorious opportunity. Played in by Hazard having lived on the verge of offside, the Spaniard rolled his shot wide of the upright by a matter of inches.

The first chance of the second half saw Fabregas tamely flick the ball into Begovic's hands after super ball manipulation by Hazard, before Willian saw an on-target free-kick denied the opportunity to test the Bosnian, as it took a flick off the wall and went behind for a corner.

Chelsea were turning the screw and hoping to close the game off, but Stoke were able to draw confidence from the fact that despite their clear inferiority on the night, the Potters were only one goal down and never truly out of this contest - that was until Fabregas fittingly applied the coup de grâce.

Charlie Adam, a Stoke substitute, saw a volley curl the wrong side of the post from his perspective before Chelsea punished him for his inaccuracy as Fabregas scuffed home a rather unsightly goal - but he, and the 2,871 travelling Chelsea supporters couldn't have cared less.

Costa then saw just his second - and last - opportunity of the game well saved by Begovic before he was hauled off to a hero's reception from the Chelsea faithful. Costa's role away from home is not that of goalscorer; it is that of cheerleader supreme - he infuriates the supporters and riles the opposing centre-backs, and he did that with aplomb here.

Andre Schurrle and Didier Drogba entered the fray as late substitues and both had half-chances; the Ivorian trying his luck and firing not too far over from fully 40 yards, whilst Schurrle saw an effort well fielded by Begovic as the game petered out.

The only concern for the Blues was Hazard's forced withdrawal after suffering what appeared to be an Achilles injury, and he was replaced by Kurt Zouma, making his first appearance since suffering a nasty head injury in a collision with Petr Cech in last week's win at Derby.

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when you can write reports as good as Blue Lion .......... I will write the headlines for you ,

until then study and learn ............... :ph34r:

I'm pretty certain that I can write better reports in his native language than he can in mine :P

....but probably not by much! :lol:

PS: I think you'll like either of those headlines much more than the one that the guardian went for: http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2014/dec/22/chelsea-harness-matic-mikel-stoke-city-tactics :halo:

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I have to say the Stoke Manager thinks we will win the league this year, I agree we will, but that's coming from another club :D haha.

Well Hughes was trying to put the pressure on us before the game.

It didn't work.

I haven't seen such a professional away performance by us since Slippy G hit the deck in April at Anfield.

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