Wednesday 21 March 2018

Terry takes the knocks to keep physical Stoke at bay

Chelsea 2
Stoke City 0

Mark Fleming

Chelsea's forward line has attracted plenty of praise of late, but the champions' defence has been no less impressive in their perfect start to the Premier League season. It has been 586 minutes since they last conceded a League goal, a record that suggests they will remain very hard to beat should anyone actually manage to give them a game.

Goals from Florent Malouda and Didier Drogba, from the spot, were enough to see off Stoke, given that the victory could have been far larger had Frank Lampard not missed a penalty, Ashley Cole not rattled the crossbar instead of finding the net and Drogba not headed straight at the visiting goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen from five yards out.

That the wastefulness of the team's attack did not affect the result is because the defenders were far less accommodating. Captain John Terry, his centre-half partner Alex, and goalkeeper Petr Cech were simply commanding against the muscular threat of Stoke. The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, may liken it to rugby, but there was no way Stoke were going to rough up Chelsea.

Terry, in particular, was outstanding, despite carrying a hamstring injury that has subsequently ruled him out of consideration for England's forthcoming Euro 2012 qualifiers. His finest moment came in the 32nd minute when he strode out of defence to support the attack, and had the presence of mind to thread a pass to Malouda for Chelsea's opener.

Terry's wobbles in pre-season disappeared as Chelsea completed their sixth Premier League clean sheet in a row. Terry said: "You read things in the papers, people questioning your form and your fitness. Well, as long as I've been playing football that's what the pre-season games are for, to blow the cobwebs away, get your fitness and, to be honest, the results don't really matter. It's how we start the season that matters and we have started it very well.

"Obviously, the strikers are scoring goals and we pride ourselves on not conceding. Alex has been brilliant. He's made four great blocks in the past two games, away at Wigan and two today. Big Pete has made some good saves as well. We are all helping and covering round, which is the minimum we ask of each other."

Chelsea had a moment of luck when Glenn Whelan's bolt from the blue hit the crossbar but otherwise the champions were pretty much unruffled, against a team rated the most physical in the division. Manager Carlo Ancelotti said: "We are playing good football. But we can show not just good football. We are a physical team, we have power. You can't just look at the team in one way. We play good football, but like today, it was a physical match, and we were ready for that. We have a lot of power. The difference is to play good football without the ball. With the ball we have skills, but without the ball we are very dangerous."

Match facts

Chelsea 4-3-3: Cech; Ferreira, Alex, Terry, Cole; Essien (Ramires, 85), Mikel, Lampard (Kalou, 72); Anelka (Sturridge, 81), Drogba, Malouda. Substitutes not used Turnbull (gk), Benayoun, Zhirkov, Van Aanholt.

Stoke City 4-5-1: Sorensen; Huth, Shawcross, Faye, Collins; Wilkinson (Whelan, 51), Whitehead, Walters, Delap (Pugh, 85), Etherington; Jones (Fuller, 68). Substitutes not used Begovic (gk), Higginbotham, Tuncay, Tonge.

Booked Whitehead, Etherington.

Man of the match Malouda.

Referee M Atkinson ( W Yorks)

Attendance 40,931.

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