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Chelsea went three points clear of second-placed Manchester City to assure their place on the top of the Premier League table for Christmas Day after they recorded a hard-fought two-nil victory over Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on Monday.
Captain John Terry headed the ball past Stoke’s keeper Asmir Begovic inside two minutes to kick-start a sharp contest that threatened to spill over at times.
However, for all Stoke’s desire, Chelsea always looked in control and deservedly doubled their lead through Cesc Fabregas’ scuffed finish in the 78th minute. With 12 minutes left, Eden Hazard found Fabregas, whose untidy finish bobbled beyond the wrong-footed Begovic, The BBC reported.
Steven Nzonzi had Stoke’s best chance but his deflected shot was well saved.
The only setback on Chelsea’s night came with a late injury to Belgian winger Hazard, who limped off after appearing to injure an ankle in a tangle with Jonathan Walters.
Skipper Terry opened fire with his header after Branislav Ivanovic’s shot from Chelsea’s first attack was charged down. Terry’s unchallenged header from Fabregas’ resulting corner powered past the exposed Begovic.
Tempers nearly boiled over when Phil Bardsley went in hard on Hazard as the Belgian advanced down the left, with the tackle resulting in an enraged Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho but referee Neil Swarbrick showed only a yellow card.
Stoke’s only win in 12 previous Premier League meetings with Chelsea came in this fixture last season, when they won 3-2 thanks to a last-minute winner from Oussama Assaidi, but a lack of midfield quality dimmed hopes of a repeat.
Stoke manager Mark Hughes said that he believes his side was frustrated to concede early on, claiming that it affected their game plan, adding that when his side gained momentum Chelsea were able to take the sting out of the game and slow things down.