Just two days after Diego Costa’s departure from Chelsea was made official, Alvaro Morata showed that life after Costa may not be so bad.
Morata recorded his first hat trick for the Blues, as Chelsea took advantage of an error-prone Stoke side to inflict a 4-0 defeat on the home side.
Taking the brunt of the criticism for his performance last week against Arsenal, Morata silenced his critics with his man of the match performance and took his goal tally to six goals in six appearances with two assists thrown in for good measure.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte will be delighted with his side’s performance, specifically as Gary Cahill and Eden Hazard were left on the substitute’s bench ahead of Wednesday’s match with Atletico Madrid, and David Luiz missing due to suspension.
Mark Hughes, though, will be lamenting his Stoke side’s misfortune to only have one central defender available to face Chelsea. With Kurt Zouma ineligible to play against his parent club, and injuries to Ryan Shawcross and Geoff Cameron, Hughes fashioned a makeshift back line, with Bruno Martins Indi as the only recognised centre back.
The Stoke back line were perhaps still working on their organisation when Chelsea punished them just two minutes in. Morata’s run caught Stoke’s defenders napping, and he collected a long ball over the top from Cesar Azpilicueta and slipped the ball past Jack Butland to give Chelsea an early advantage.
In truth, Stoke were the architects of their own downfall, and 30 minutes in, Pedro nabbed Chelsea’s second. Martins Indi and Darren Fletcher’s miscommunication led to Fletcher chesting the ball straight into the path of Pedro, who coolly curled the ball inside the far post, as Chelsea were in complete control.
Mame Biram Diouf gave the home side a slight glimmer of hope when Chelsea failed to clear their lines properly from a corner, and his attempted overhead kick was fired just wide.
Marcos Alonso nearly gave Stoke more hope at the start of the second half by showing some of the indiscipline that has plagued Chelsea at the start of the season. After being on the receiving end of a flailing arm from Diouf, Alonso was booked for cynically took down Joe Allen and was shown leniency from referee Mike Dean when he clattered into Diouf just minutes later and escaped a booking, prompting Conte to remove him before the hour.
Peter Crouch made his entrance on the hour mark and nearly picked up an assist soon after. His flicked header to the far post found the run of Diouf, who could only fire the ball over as he was sliding in.
Darren Fletcher continued to have a match that he’d like to forget when he found himself unmarked in the centre of the penalty area but headed the ball down onto his own leg and watched it bounce wide of the goal.
Stoke were then punished for their missed chances when Glen Johnson’s casual pass on the halfway line was deflected by Tiemoue Bakoyoko to Morata, who outpaced the Stoke defence on the outside before lifting the ball over Butland.
Morata’s hat trick came just four minutes later when Cesc Fabregas took possession just outside the penalty area and found the run of Azpilicueta, now playing as a left wing back. Azpilicueta simply chested the ball into the centre where Morata was waiting to prod home from inside the six-yard box and earn himself the match ball.