STOKE, ENGLAND – John Terry scored his first league goal of the season to help Chelsea beat Stoke City 2-0 Monday night and restore its three-point lead atop the Premier League.
Terry put his side ahead in just the second minute with a powerful header from a corner, and Cesc Fabregas doubled the lead in the 78th to make sure Chelsea re-established the gap over second-place Manchester City.
In between, it was a feisty and physical game at Britannia Stadium and Stoke’s Phil Bardsley was lucky to escape with just a yellow card after a reckless tackle on Eden Hazard in the 20th minute.
“A victory means a bit more than the three points,” Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said. “We won for sure in one of the most difficult places to win.”
Mourinho’s side could have had more goals, with Diego Costa failing to finish a couple of good opportunities, and were generally very much in control throughout the game, showing their ability to cope with a combative Stoke outfit on a chilly evening.
Stoke beat Arsenal 3-2 here after jumping out to a 3-0 lead by halftime, and won by the same score line against Chelsea at home last season.
But the London club had no such problems on this occasion, with Terry providing the visitors with a perfect start. Fabregas swung in a corner and Terry got the better of Geoff Cameron to head in his first Premier League goal since December 2013. The Chelsea captain has now scored in the last 15 Premier League seasons.
And the visitors could have added a second goal just after the half-hour mark as Nemanja Matic made a fine tackle to rob Cameron of possession, the Blues broke away and the ball was fed to Costa, who was through one-on-one with Asmir Begovic but sent his shot narrowly wide.
Charlie Adam had Stoke’s best chance for an equalizer midway through the second half but sent his shot from just outside the area curling just wide of the post.
Shortly afterward, Chelsea made the game safe as the ball came to Fabregas in the box from Eden Hazard and the Spaniard took one touch before scuffing a shot that deceived Begovic to roll in.
Stoke is 13th in the table after 17 games. Chelsea, meanwhile, is hoping to continue the trend that the team that tops the standings at Christmas goes on to clinch the title. Seven of the last 10 leaders at Christmas did so, including Chelsea in 2004-05, ’05-06 and ’09-10.
“What we did in the past is not important,” Mourinho said. “What’s important is this season, and this season we are top of the league since day one and we are there because we are playing really well.”