Chelsea provisionally moved to the top of the Premier League with a 3-0 victory at home to Stoke City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Mohamed Salah put Chelsea ahead in the 32nd minute after the Blues created a number of early chances. Frank Lampard doubled the lead midway through the second half, converting the rebound after seeing his penalty saved. Willian sealed the points with a fine curling strike 18 minutes from time.
The victory took Chelsea onto 72 points, one ahead of Liverpool, who play at West Ham United on Sunday. Manchester City, one point further behind, have two matches in hand on Chelsea.
Back atop the table following last weekend's loss at Crystal Palace, the Blues mostly have a mostly manageable fixture list as they head into the title run-in. Apart from their trip to Liverpool on April 27, Jose Mourinho's side will be favoured to win each of their remaining matches against bottom-half clubs Swansea, Sunderland, Norwich and Cardiff.
Meanwhile, Chelsea are still alive in the UEFA Champions League, though they have work to do following a 3-1 loss at Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their quarter-final. The same two teams will meet again Tuesday at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea needing at least two goals to stay alive.
"It took 10 or 15 minutes to recover a bit of self-esteem and confidence after two defeats," Mourinho told ChelseaFC.com. "After that the team played well, especially in the first half. …It's an important three points for the Premier League but it's also important because it's one thing to start Tuesday's match after a defeat, but another to start that game after a victory."
Stoke City, who defeated Chelsea 3-2 in the reverse fixture in December, are 10th in the Premier League with 40 points.
Chelsea attacked throughout the first half and generated several chances before Salah's breakthrough. Fernando Torres shot wide from a good position just outside the box in the ninth minute, and Salah saw his shot saved by Asmir Begovic one minute later.
The Blues created two more chances in the 24th minute. First, Lampard tested Begovic with a long shot before Begovic came off his line alertly to deny Torres from close range.
The breakthrough came in the 32nd minute after Nemanja Matic collected a throw-in on the left, drove to the byline and pulled back into the middle for Salah. With his first touch, Salah blasted the ball into the net off Begovic's outstretched leg to give Chelsea a 1-0 lead.
Salah had another sight of goal two minutes later after running onto Willian's through pass, but Salah's second touch was too heavy and Begovic raced off his line alertly to collect. Chelsea thought they had a second goal in the 41st minute after Branislav Ivanovic headed in Lampard's cross, but Ivanovic was ruled offside and Chelsea settled for a 1-0 advantage at half-time.
Mourinho introduced Eden Hazard as a substitute for Andre Schurrle in the 59th minute. After the change, Chelsea quickly improved and grabbed two goals to kill off the match.
It was 2-0 in the 61st minute, as Lampard converted the rebound after seeing his initial penalty saved by Begovic. Salah won the penalty, drawing a foul from Andy Wilkinson.
Willian wrapped up the points 11 minutes later, curling in a fine shot from the edge of the box after Ryan Shawcross gave the Brazilian too much time and space with the ball at his feet.
It turned out to be the game's final goal, and with it Chelsea returned to the top of the league—at least for now.
|Chelsea Player Ratings vs. Stoke City|
|Eden Hazard (for Schurrle, 59')||N/A||8|
|David Luiz (for Lampard, 70')||N/A||6|
|Ashley Cole (for Willian, 78')||N/A||6|
Chelsea host Paris Saint-Germain in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday. PSG won the first leg 3-1 in Paris. The Blues return to the Premier League next Sunday with a match at Swansea City.
Stoke City host Newcastle United in the Premier League next Saturday.