Chelsea keep up pressure on top two with 4-0 win at Stoke
Goals come from Lampard and Hazard - plus two from Stoke’s wretched Jonathan Walters
WITH the two Manchester teams not playing yesterday, Chelsea maintained the pressure on the league leaders by thrashing Stoke 4-0 at the Britannia Stadium.
It was the Potters’ first home league defeat of the season, and it means the Blues are now only four points behind Manchester City (who play Arsenal this afternoon) though they remain 11 shy of leaders Manchester United (who entertain Liverpool at lunchtime).
No Stoke player suffered quite as much as Jonathan Walters, who twice put the ball into his own net as Chelsea ran riot on an afternoon when a host of other Premier League clubs failed to find the net.
Frank Lampard and Eden Hazard were the other Chelsea scorers and manager Rafa Benitez expressed his delight with the result after a week in which the Blues had been well beaten by Swansea in the first leg of their league cup semi-final. "I was really pleased," said Benitez. "We worked very hard against a Stoke team who pushed us, yet we remained strong in defence.”
Asked about the pressure he feels since taking over from Roberto Di Matteo two months ago, Benitez said: "We have a really good staff at Chelsea who work very hard. The players are happy and the atmosphere is good.
“Hopefully we can win one or two more games and people will realise we're progressing well. If you analyse the stats you will see that we are scoring more goals and conceding less than in the past. Things are going well."
Tottenham would have finished the day above Chelsea if they had managed to come away from Loftus Road with more than a point, but the Lilywhites were unable to score against a resilient Queens Park Rangers. The goalless draw leaves Spurs in fourth, one point behind Chelsea and three clear of Everton.
“It was a difficult game for us,” admitted Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas. “But we got an away point so we are satisfied… they defended very well. We wanted to play with a higher tempo, but they frustrate you.”
Rangers remain bottom but Harry Redknapp considered it another good result for his side, ten days after they beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. “That was every bit as good as the performance against Chelsea,” said the QPR boss. “We worked our socks off against a real top team today. I can't ask for more than that.”
Everton manager David Moyes was left wondering what might have been after the Toffees failed to put away Swansea at Goodison Park. "We missed a lot of chances,” admitted Moyes. “On another day, if we'd taken one then we'd have won the game. We could have played better.”
The third match to cough up no goals was at Norwich, where the Canaries drew 0-0 with Newcastle, and the only goal of the game at Aston Villa was a penalty from Ricky Lambert that gave Southampton all the points. The win means the Saints leapfrog Villa and move clear of the drop zone.
Reading are still second from bottom although their 3-2 win at home to West Bromwich Albion proved there’s plenty of fight left in the Royals. Trailing 2-0 to the Baggies with eight minutes left on the clock, Reading pulled off a magnificent comeback with goals from Jimmy Kebe, Adam Le Fondre and Pavel Pogrebnyak.
“I'm looking forward to watching the last eight minutes of that game!” exclaimed Reading manager Brian McDermott. "That was a big three points today, I thought the character and resilience of our players was excellent.”
In other results, Fulham and Wigan drew 1-1 at Craven Cottage while Sunderland thumped West Ham 3-0. “It's our fourth win in seven games in the Premier League and in the context of things, it was good to win,” said Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill, whose side are now 14th and six points clear of the relegation zone.
Nonetheless O’Neill admitted that “anybody in the bottom half of the table still has to be looking anxiously over their shoulder”.