Chelsea returned to the top of the Premier League by beating Stoke City 3-0 on Saturday to put a week of woe firmly behind them.
Jose Mourinho’s men suffered a shock 1-0 league defeat to lowly Crystal Palace last weekend before losing 3-1 to Paris Saint-Germain in their midweek UEFA Champions League last-eight clash to cap a miserable five-day spell.
But a return to Stamford Bridge proved welcome for the title chasers as Mohamed Salah scored on his full debut, Frank Lampard netted the rebound from his own saved penalty and Willian rifled home a stunner to preserve Chelsea’s unbeaten home record in the top flight this season.
The result also extends Chelsea’s excellent record against Stoke on home soil, with City having lost on their last eight visits, failing to score in the last seven.
It settles a score for the London club too, after they were beaten 3-2 at the Britannia Stadium in December.
Liverpool can usurp Chelsea at the summit when they travel to West Ham on Sunday.
Mourinho, who has repeatedly downplayed his side’s title chances, rested some key players as Eden Hazard, scorer of Chelsea’s goal at the Parc des Princes, and Oscar took up places on the bench.
Fernando Torres, whose Stamford Bridge future has been the subject of much debate this week, was denied by the alert Asmir Begovic as the Spaniard looked to race on to Willian’s early throughball.
The former Liverpool striker then fired a shot narrowly wide of goal in the ninth minute as he sought to make a point.
Branislav Ivanovic should have done better with an 18-yard effort midway through the half but the Serbian looped his shot over the crossbar with the outside of his right boot.
Stoke almost gifted the hosts the opening goal when Erik Pieters attempted to chest the ball back to Begovic, only for Torres to intervene, forcing the visiting goalkeeper to bravely block.
Salah made the breakthrough with 31 minutes gone, firing home an excellent first-time effort after good work down the left from Nemanja Matic.
An offside flag denied Ivanovic Chelsea’s second when he headed in Lampard’s cross just before the break.
The visitors made a determined start to the second half and, with Chelsea struggling to assert themselves, Mourinho introduced Hazard from the bench.
The Belgian immediately had an impact, playing a neat backheel into Salah inside the box, where the Egyptian was brought down by half-time substitute Andy Wilkinson for a Chelsea penalty.
Lampard’s effort was initially saved by Begovic down to the goalkeeper’s right, but the England midfielder responded first to tap the loose ball into an empty net.
There was no way back for former Chelsea forward Mark Hughes’ side when Willian stroked home a tremendous effort from the edge of the box with 18 minutes left, but Stoke are still all but safe from relegation on 40 points.
Chelsea, though, have loftier aims and can now prepare for Tuesday’s visit of PSG with a degree of confidence after an eighth consecutive clean sheet at home in all competitions.
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