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Chelsea routs Stoke to go 3rd
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 13 - 01 - 2013

STOKE — Jonathan Walters scored two own goals Saturday as Chelsea beat Stoke 4-0 to emphatically end the host's unbeaten home record in the Premier League.
The unfortunate Walters planted two headers into his own net when trying to clear the ball to give Chelsea a 2-0 lead by the 63rd minute. Frank Lampard then added a penalty in the 66th to move into sole possession of second place on the club's all-time scoring list, before Eden Hazard finished off the rout with a swerving long-range strike in the 73rd.
Stoke had not lost at Britannia Stadium in the Premier League since February last year, but it's normally stodgy defense came undone as the club fell to its heaviest home defeat since returning to the top flight in 2008.
Chelsea, meanwhile, climbed into third place in the standings, leapfrogging Tottenham, which was held 0-0 by Queens Park Rangers earlier Saturday.
Walters' miserable day was made even worse when he missed a penalty in the 90th minute, sending the ball off the crossbar.
Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez decided to start Demba Ba up front for his first Premier League appearance for the club, with Fernando Torres dropping to the bench.
Captain John Terry was on the bench for the first time since sustaining knee ligament damage two months ago, and came on as a late substitute. Benitez was once again under pressure from the Chelsea fans after losing to QPR at home in the last league round and then falling 2-0 to Swansea in the first leg of their League Cup semifinal.
Chelsea struggled early but gradually took control of the match halfway through the first half. And just before the break, the visitors went ahead with a little bit of luck after Cesar Azpilicueta swung in a cross from the right. Juan Mata was poised to convert but he was beaten to the ball by a diving Walters, who powered the ball past his own keeper.
Incredibly, he managed to do it again in the second half. 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 Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross, and Lampard smashed the penalty down the middle. Lampard 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, as Hazard let fly from 25 yards and the ball rocketed into the top corner.
Newcastle ended a run of four straight losses with a 0-0 draw at Norwich, although its lack of presence up front highlighted the pressing need to replace the departed Demba Ba. Both teams struggled in one of the most uninspiring games of the season, with Norwich coming closest to scoring when Russell Martin's long-range shot struck the post in the second half.
Reading scored three times in the final eight minutes to beat West Bromwich Albion 3-2, ensuring QPR stayed bottom of the standings. Aston Villa's plight worsened with a 1-0 home loss to Southampton. Elsewhere Everton drew with Swansea 0-0; Fulham drew with Wigan 1-1; Norwich 0 Newcastle 0; and Sunderland beat West Ham 3-0. — Agencies


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