Alvaro Morata Hat-Trick Leads Chelsea to Easy Win vs. Stoke City

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2017

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 23: Alvaro Morata of Chelsea celebrates after scoring a goal to make it 0-3 during the Premier League match between Stoke City and Chelsea at Bet365 Stadium on September 23, 2017 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Alvaro Morata bagged his first Chelsea hat-trick as the Blues cruised to a 4-0 victory over Stoke City and moved back up to third in the Premier League standings above Tottenham Hotspur.

Pedro was the other Chelsea attacker to get on the scoresheet, but Morata stole the headlines, scoring after only two minutes before notching another two late in the second half to make it 17 goals in his last 19 games for club and country. 

The Blues have three days respite before facing Atletico Madrid in a UEFA Champions League group-stage clash in Spain's capital on Wednesday, and Morata in particular will take confidence as he returns to a familiar setting.

Cesar Azpilicueta spotted a Morata run deep after just 78 seconds, and Goal's Nizaar Kinsella praised their connection as the striker controlled before dispatching the ball into Jack Butland's bottom-right corner:

Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger formed a central back three alongside Azpilicueta, with Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso to the left and right, respectively, and Gary Cahill settling for a place on the bench.

Even with their captain absent from the XI, Chelsea were successful in keeping their hosts at bay, as noted by ESPN FC's Liam Twomey, although Xherdan Shaqiri and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting looked threatening:

Stoke's initial work to stay within one goal's reach of the Blues after 30 minutes suffered another setback, however, when Darren Fletcher's chest backward on the edge of his own box was pounced upon by Pedro.

Yet again it was a Spanish Blue at the root of Stoke's misery, and the former Barcelona winger didn't pause before angling a super finish inside the far-left post from 20 yards.

OptaJoe hailed his fine contribution to the club's recent scoring load:

Shaqiri had a half-chance to score from a free-kick, and team-mate Jese Rodriguez came into the fixture as the first period wore on, but still the Potters were largely muted and struggled to test Thibaut Courtois.

The second period took on a similar dynamic as Chelsea kept the hosts on their toes, and controversy erupted when Marcos Alonso and Mame Biram Diouf clashed on several occasions, per The Guardian's Ed Aarons:

Alonso was hooked off by Conte soon after as he looked to ensure his side remained fully staffed, although replacement Cahill was quickly at the centre of a penalty claim from Choupo-Moting in the Blues box.

Stoke soon exhausted their quota of escapes and ultimately fell victim to two pieces of Morata magic, the first of which came from fellow new arrival Tiemoue Bakayoko winning the ball in midfield.

Morata stared down his defender before showing the Stoke veteran a clean pair of heels before finishing well into the far corner and earning praise from Match of the Day pundit Kevin Kilbane:

While that strike was almost entirely a piece of solo skill crafted by Morata, his third was a sum of its parts, beginning with a delightfully clipped ball over the top into Stoke's box by substitute Cesc Fabregas.

An onrushing Azpilicueta was unselfish and passed right for Morata to finish in front of an open net, quickly showing he may be the man to replace the departed Diego Costa after all, per Sky Sports Statto:

Substitute Stoke striker Peter Crouch was somewhat fortunate to stay on the pitch when he went high on Fabregas with only a few minutes remaining, but referee Mike Dean only gave the Englishman a yellow.

Stoke boss Mark Hughes has now failed to see his side win in their last five matches, and three consecutive defeats across multiple campaigns will undoubtedly damage their morale.

Chelsea, on the other hand, can afford to feel upbeat regarding their chances of taking a result from Atletico upon making their return to Champions League action on Wednesdayat the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.