Chelsea go three clear after easing to win at Stoke
23 December 2014, 08:36
London - John Terry's early header and Cesc Fabregas's second-half strike restored Chelsea's three-point Premier League lead heading into a busy Christmas programme after a 2-0 win at Stoke City on Monday.
Chelsea were ahead inside two minutes at the Britannia Stadium when Terry met a Fabregas corner with a powerful downward header.
Stoke pushed forward after the break without ever causing fit-again Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois many problems and Fabregas sealed victory with a scuffed finish 12 minutes from time.
Chelsea, who host West Ham United on Friday, have 42 points from 17 games with Manchester City, who visit West Brom the same day, on 39 and Manchester United on 32.
Stoke beat Chelsea in this fixture last season but the hosts were always up against it after Terry timed his run to perfection and beat Asmir Begovic with a powerful header for his first league goal in over a year.
Mark Hughes's side tried to harry and hustle Chelsea but the superior class of the leaders always shone through.
Courtois, back after a muscular injury, was rarely troubled although the Belgian needed to produce a fine save midway through the first half from Steven N'Zonzi's deflected strike.
Top scorer Diego Costa should have increased Chelsea's lead when Stoke tried and failed to catch him offside, the Spaniard timing his run perfectly -- only to the skew his shot wide.
Fabregas might have been awarded a penalty when he appeared to be clipped by Ryan Shawcross soon after halftime but Stoke escaped.
Charlie Adam drilled wide from edge of box following neat approach play from Stoke but Chelsea soaked up the pressure and made the points safe when Eden Hazard, who needed lengthy treatment in stoppage time, fed Fabregas and the Spaniard beat Begovic.