Brace of Walters own goals helps Blues rise up to third
Stoke 0 Chelsea 4
Stoke’s long unbeaten home run was brought to a shuddering halt as Chelsea chalked up a much-needed victory – with a helping hand from Jonathan Walters.
The Potters had not lost at the Britannia Stadium in the Barclays Premier League since February and have proved formidable opponents for the league’s big guns, but this was their biggest home loss since returning to the top flight in 2008.
It began to go wrong in injury time at the end of the first half when Walters headed into his own net, and remarkably the striker repeated the trick in the 62nd minute.
Three minutes later Frank Lampard netted a penalty after Juan Mata went down and Eden Hazard rounded off the scoring with a long-range screamer 17 minutes from time.
Walters was given the chance to at least score one goal at the right end when Stoke were awarded a 90th-minute penalty but in keeping with the rest of the striker’s day he could only find the top of the bar.
Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez made the decision to start Demba Ba for his first Premier League appearance for the club, with Fernando Torres dropping to the bench.
Defender Gary Cahill was absent to be at the birth of his son so David Luiz dropped back into defence alongside Branislav Ivanovic, the culprit for both Swansea’s goals in the midweek Capital One Cup defeat.
Lampard started while captain John Terry was on the bench for the first time since sustaining knee ligament damage two months ago.
Benitez was once again feeling the heat from the Chelsea fans following the Swansea result and defeat by QPR in their last league game, but they began positively and only a well-timed tackle from Ryan Shawcross prevented Ramires getting a shot away.
The Stoke captain showed just why the Potters were so keen to tie him to a long-term deal with some assured play to steady the ship and soon it was the home side who were threatening.
In the eighth minute a shot from Andy Wilkinson was blocked by Ramires and the ball fell to Kenwyne Jones on the right of the area. His shot beat Petr Cech but rolled just past the post.
Chelsea were rattled and Cech was grateful to hang on to a header from Steven Nzonzi, who could not get enough power into his effort.
The visitors were struggling to get out of their half but a break in the 25th minute provided them with a great chance as Ba found Lampard running into the area only for Asmir Begovic to stick out a leg and deny him.
The Bosnian’s reputation has soared this season and he was again the saviour for Stoke six minutes later as Ba outpaced Robert Huth but could not beat the keeper with the angle tightening, while Wilkinson’s crunching tackle stopped Ramires from reaching the loose ball.
Stoke by now were reduced to half-chances – a shot on the turn from Jones that was blocked by Luiz and a volley from Glenn Whelan that was straight at Cech.
It looked like the teams would go into half-time all square but with injury time almost up Cesar Azpilicueta swung in a cross from the right.
Mata was poised to convert but he was beaten to the ball by a diving Walters, who powered the ball past his own keeper.
The striker attempted to make amends after the restart but, although he beat the Chelsea defence, the angle was too narrow to really trouble Cech.
It was an open game and, after Begovic had produced another decent stop to push Ashley Cole’s low drive round the post, Nzonzi tested Cech with a fine strike from 25 yards that the Chelsea keeper pushed over the bar.
Shortly after, Stoke thought they had been given a penalty when Matthew Etherington fell under a challenge from Azpilicueta but referee Andre Marriner had in fact awarded a free-kick to Chelsea for offside.
The killer goal arrived in the 62nd minute, and incredibly it was another own goal from Walters. This time Mata sent in a corner and the Stoke striker got his head to the ball just ahead of Lampard.
The Potters were now staring at the end of their long unbeaten home run, and things got worse three minutes later when they conceded a penalty.
Mata broke through and went to ground under pressure from both Huth and Shawcross, although it was the contact from Huth that seemed to prompt Marriner to point to the spot.
Lampard smashed the penalty down the middle, and he should have added a fourth moments later but shot straight at Begovic from point-blank range.
The visitors did manage another in the 73rd minute, though, and what a strike it was as Hazard let fly from 25 yards and the ball rocketed into the top corner.
Two minutes before Torres had replaced Ba, while Terry was given a little over 10 minutes – and was greeted by his now customary reaction from the opposing fans.
There was still time for the defender to give away a penalty for a foul on Walters, but there was no redemption for the striker.