It’s games like these that give an opportunity for creative players struggling to find their way to make an impact once again. Eden Hazard wasn’t as influential as he was early in the season, but scoring a fantastic goal should help the most expensive player Chelsea purchased this summer fit it once again.
If there was any debate about who should be starting for Chelsea – Demba Ba or Fernando Torres, came along another striker, Johnathan Walters of Stoke City and gave the Blues two goals with his head. Positioning, aerial game, clinical finishing, perfect timing. Too bad they were own goals.
A match that could have been a very tough nut to crack simply fell at Chelsea’s feet as Stoke, after a very good first half, similar to their impressive performance in Stamford Bridge earlier this season (1-0 to Chelsea), simply fell apart. Two own goals will do that to you, leaving it wide open for Benitez’ team to conquer.
Rafa Benitez is going with Demba Ba at the moment. You could argue that Ba is a more physical player which is what was needed for the match at the Britannia Stadium, but the truth is the better striker at the moment, or at least the one with the better chance of scoring a goal. He’s more confident, more mobile and tries to put himself in a position to score every time Chelsea have the ball, instead of Fernando Torres’ running to the flanks, often leaving an empty penalty box. Torres got a chance to come on with 19 minutes in the match but didn’t do anything worth mentioning.
The refereeing did go against Stoke in this one – There was no penalty kick on Juan Mata, and this isn’t the first time this season that either Mata or Hazard have won a spot kick by falling way too easily for anyone’s (but Chelsea fans) liking. Frank Lampard, who didn’t do much of offense on the pitch all match long, go to improve his scoring record (7th goal this season) which hides a lot of penalty kicks in it.
And then there was Eden Hazard’s moment. Arguably the most talented player on this team, who started the season scoring and adding assists in every match during the early, undefeated going, has gotten lost along the way. Somewhere during the Roberto Di Matteo tenure Hazard lost his effectiveness, as Mata became more dominant and the Belgian got pushed aside.
Under Rafa Benitez, Hazard is on the left most of the time, but did look better playing from the right side of the pitch, as Ryan Bertrand got a chance in the starting lineup. Hazard was a lot more active and aggressive with his decisions to make runs from the right through the middle, and it was that exact mind set that pushed him towards scoring the fantastic fourth goal.
There probably won’t be any title waiting for Chelsea at the end of the run this season, as it looks like Manchester United are too far ahead. Things can change, and keeping their third place is a tough enough mission on its own. The important mission for some players and especially the manager, is keeping their place safe for next season.