Chelsea put their run of back to back defeats behind them with a comfortable 3-0 win over Stoke, but manager Jose Mourinho is still refusing to recognise their status as Premier League contenders.
Goals from Mohammed Salah, Frank Lampard and Willian sent the Blues above Liverpool and back to the top of the table (for a while at least). Salah impressed on his first start for the club, playing a big part in the win which sets Mourinho’s side up for their crucial Champions League clash with Paris Saint Germain on Tuesday night.
With Tuesday’s game in mind, the hosts made several changes with Oscar and Eden Hazard both left out of the starting line up. Neither man was missed as Chelsea’s midfield fired them to victory. Salah opened the scoring after half an hour, slotting home from Nemanja Matic’s cut back.
Branislav Ivanovic had a goal disallowed for offside, with replays showing he was only narrowly off. Chelsea went in at the break with just a goal advantage, but Belgian Hazard was introduced just after the break for Andre Schurrle, and he linked up with Salah, which led to Andy Wilkinson bringing down the Egyptian and conceding a penalty.
Frank Lampard missed from the spot, but Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic spilled the ball and Lampard was first in line to poke the ball home on the rebound to effectively wrap up the points.
The pace of the game began to slow down, but then Willian ran at the Stoke defence before shifting the ball on to his right foot and curling in a magnificent strike that his performance merited. After that goal, Willian was withdrawn ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League game, with Ashley Cole coming on to make a rare appearance.
Despite the good win, Mourinho is still refusing to say his team are part of the title fight, with Manchester City and Liverpool still favourites to lift the trophy. When pressed on their title changes he said, “The situation is the same. The table is fake. The table is again with lots of matches in hand.”
The Portuguese is more hopeful over their chances for next season, especially after their latest win. “The players can go home with smiles on their faces,” Mourinho said. “He [Salah] is improving, step by step. We knew he was a player for the next season and can use this season to improve. Next season we have kids like him – Oscar, Eden Hazard, Willian and Andre Schurrle – all of them 20 to 25, all talented and with time to reach the top of the game.”
Chelsea still have a chance of winning the Champions League for the second time in two years, but first they have a 3-1 deficit to overturn. “We have to enjoy the match on Tuesday and not to be scared of it, not lose the tie and go out,” Mourinho said. “[To] enjoy it is the best way to play this match because of the difficulty of this situation.”
LCN Man of the Match: Mohammed Salah