Alvaro Morata scored his first Chelsea hat-trick to wrap up a comprehensive 4-0 win away at Stoke City.
The game wasn’t as one-sided as the score would suggest, and if anything, Stoke had the better of the play, but when it came down to it, Chelsea were ruthless in front of goal – scoring with all four of their shots on target, and therefore theydeserved their victory.
Chelsea got off to the perfect start as Cesar Azpilicueta’s lofted through ball was taken down brilliantly by Morata, who slotted past the onrushing Jack Butland after just two minutes.
The Blues then doubled their lead on the counterattack, when Pedro latched onto an under-hit pass back by Darren Fletcher to curl home his first league goal of the campaign
Now in cruise control, Chelsea could afford to sit back and soak up the pressure, which they did until late on in the game, when Stoke began to tire.
Stoke missed a hatful of good chances in the second-half, especially through Fletcher and Choupo-Moting, and were punished for their lack of efficiency through Morata’s late double – which completed his hat-trick. The first of his goals was a superb solo run that ended with the Spaniard lifting the ball over Butland and into the net. Azpilicueta was again on hand to help Morata score, as he chested the ball into Morata’s path for him to poke home from close range.
Here’s how I rated the Chelsea players:
Thibaut Courtois – 7
Kept a clean sheet and held on well to the barrage of crosses and shots that came his way in the second-half.
Cesar Azpilicueta – 10
There was no more this man could’ve done today, his connection with Morata was just incredible. His first assist was an incredible pass from deep, and for the second, he made adapting run into the box before having the presence of mind to chest it down to Morata instead of going for goal. Even after all of that, he still managed to captain the side to a clean sheet away at a side that have already taken points from both Arsenal and Manchester United.
Andreas Christensen – 8
Completed 96% of his passes today misplacing just three, he’s fast becoming one of the league’s best ball-playing centre-halves, and at only 21, it’s hard to believe but he will get even better.
Antonio Rudiger – 8
He made so many last ditch tackles and blocks, and he was very comfortable in bringing the ball out from the back. He keeps on improving with every game that passes, and after just a few games this season, he already seems capable of replacing Gary Cahill on a permanent basis.
Victor Moses – 7
Grew into the game as space began to open up late on. His link-up play with Ede Hazard created some dangerous opportunities and if it not for a lack of composure, Moses could easily have grabbed himself a goal or an assist. Early on, however, his passes were sloppy and he gave away some cheap free-kicks.
Tiemoue Bakayoko – 7
A brilliant interception from Bakayoko allowed Morata to break free and score his second goal of the game. Much like Rudiger, his ability to get back and make last-ditch challenges bailed Chelsea out on numerous occasions, and his physicality was the perfect antidote to Stoke’s more technical midfielders.
N’Golo Kante – 7
Did a very similar job to Bakayoko, but was instead more of a driving force, using his engine to move Chelsea up the pitch with devastating effect. He has evolved his game to become a more box-to-box midfielder, rather than the deeper lying anchor he was last season.
Marcos Alonso – 6
He didn’t play particularly badly but his poor challenges were drawing attention, and Antonio Conte was right to bring him off midway through the second-half, especially considering Stoke were in the ascendancy at that point.
Willian – 7
He constantly skipped past players and was ultimately the most mobile of the attacking trio. His movement was all well and good but he was guilty of not releasing the ball quickly enough and hence he lost possession quite often.
Alvaro Morata – 10
Chelsea hat-tricks are like London buses these days; you wait ages for one and then two come along at once. Morata was truly exceptional today, with each goal showcasing a different aspect of his game – the first goal saw his ability to move off his marker, the second was a superb solo run that saw him dribble past three players, and his third was a classic poachers finish.
Pedro – 7
A first Premier League goal of the season for Pedro, and a brilliant one at that, curling a shot into the far corner as he has done so many times in a Chelsea shirt. Of the 12 Premier League goals Chelsea have scored this season, 75% of them have been from Spanish players, and Pedro is the latest player to add to that glowing statistic.
Gary Cahill – 6
He came on and instantly the backline looked more chaotic, under pressure he was unable to play out from the back. His experience was needed, however, as Chelsea were in a potentially dangerous position of letting Stoke back into the game at 2-0.
Cesc Fabregas – 7
Played a lovely chipped ball into Azpilicueta, who chested it to Morata for his hat-trick. When the game became stretched, Fabregas was able to pick out pockets of space for Hazard and co. to move into and this created abundance of goal scoring opportunities.
Eden Hazard – 7
He was majestic on the ball and linked up so well with Fabregas and Moses, but the clinical edge he had last season is still lacking and it will take a few more games before he’s back to his very best.