Mor Mor Mor ...how do you like it?
DEADLY ALVARO FIRES HAT-TRICK IN BLUES ROMP TO FILL THE BOOTS OF DEPARTED £67M HITMAN DIEGO COSTA
Butland 6; Johnson 5, Martins Indi 6 (Afellay (76th), Pieters 5; Diouf 6, Fletcher 5, Allen 7, Sobhi 5; Shaqiri 7, Jese 5 (Crouch (62nd) 6) Choupo-Moting 5
CHELSEA might have lost the master of the dark arts in Diego Costa – but in Alvaro Morata there is plenty of light at the end of the tunnel.
Stoke boss Mark Hughes made it clear he thinks his former club are poorer for last Friday’s £67million sale of Costa to Atletico Madrid.
It was Sparky who referred to those “dark arts” when discussing Costa’s eventual return to Atletico after falling out with Chelsea boss Antonio Conte last season.
But Costa’s replacement Morata has hit the ground running with the Premier League champions.
In fact, the former Real Madrid and Juventus striker has never been in such good form at the start of a season. It took the £60m signing from Real only 83 seconds to give Chelsea the lead yesterday.
With Gary Cahill on the bench at the start ahead of this week’s Champions League game against Atletico, Cesar Azpilicueta took the captain’s armband.
And it was his early long ball which caught out a depleted Stoke backline, with Ryan Shawcross, Kurt Zouma, Kevin Wimmer and Geoff Cameron unavailable.
Morata raced on to Azpilicueta’s pass and calmly steered a right-foot finish wide of Stoke keeper Jack Butland and into the far corner of the net.
It was Morata’s fourth goal of the season – the previous three all being with his head.
And he went on to score his first hat-trick in England. In the 78th minute he raced almost half the length of the pitch before producing a neat finish.
And four minutes later Morata turned the ball over the line after Azpilicueta had chested Cesc Fabregas’s pass into his path.
Stoke knew that their unbeaten home record this season, which included a win against Arsenal and draw
Courtois 6; Azpilicueta 8, Christensen 7, Rudiger 8; Moses 6, Kante 7, Bakayoko 6, Alonso 6 (Cahill (58th) 6); Willian 6 (Hazard (72nd) 6), Morata 9, Pedro 7 (Fabregas (68th) 6) with Manchester United, was going to be under serious threat after that first Morata goal.
And they had only themselves to blame Chelsea increased their lead on the half-hour.
Skipper Darren Fletcher casually chested the ball back towards his own goal – but only into the path of the alert Pedro who gratefully hammered a right-foot drive in to the corner of the net, beating the diving Butland.
Stoke needed an inspirational moment to get back in to the match and it almost arrived two minutes before half-time.
But Mame Biram Diouf ’s fine overhead effort from Joe Allen’s excellent cross was off target.
Stoke did not have a shot on target until the hour mark, when the lively Xherdan Shaqiri produced a left-foot effort which Thibaut Courtois comfortably held.
But the second half was more uncomfortable for the visitors.
Peter Crouch caused problems when he came on as substitute for the anonymous Jese.
The former England target man set up a chance when he won the ball in the air but Diouf – under when Alvaro Morata M Dean Southampton (H), Sept 30 Atletico Madrid (A), Sept 27 pressure from Antonio Rudiger – could not keep his shot down. And with Marcos Alonso walking a disciplinary tightrope after being yellow-carded, Conte sensibly replaced him with Cahill.
Fletcher’s uncharacteristically poor afternoon also saw him fail to convert a chance with his head.
The former Manchester United midfielder miscued and the ball ended up bouncing off his foot and trickling wide.
That was six minutes before the highly impressive Morata wrapped it up for Chelsea with his second and third goals.
And three minutes from time Glen Johnson cleared off the line to prevent a fourth goal for the Spain striker.
Stoke boss Hughes said: “We contributed to our own downfall. That’s the story of the game from our point of view.
“If you make catastrophic defensive mistakes against a side like Chelsea, then they are going to punish you.
“But there were extenuating circumstances given the shortage of personnel we had at the back and to make matters worse, we then lose Bruno Martins Indi with a groin injury.
“But in my view, Alonso should have been sent off and it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if we had been playing against 10 men.
“Clearly, their manager thought so, too, because he took off Alonso.”
STOKE: CHELSEA: STAR MAN:
Stoke’s next game: Chelsea’s next game: ■
BLUES BROTHERS: Morata celebrates with Chelsea’s other goalscorer Pedro