The team returned to winning ways with a very comfortable victory that kept up a 40-year unbeaten run in the league against the club from the Potteries.
Mohamed Salah on his first start got the ball rolling with an accomplished first-half strike and went on to be involved in all the goals, winning a penalty in the second half that although initially saved, was converted on the follow-up by taker Frank Lampard.
It was Willian, asked to play the no.10 role today, who completed the scoring with a lovely shot, having been denied by a save from a similar, although deflected, effort in the first half.
Defensively we were very solid. It was just the type of performance to boost belief ahead of Tuesday’s visit from Paris Saint-Germain.
Salah made his full debut after five substitute appearances and with Eden Hazard rested in a league game for the first time since Norwich away six months ago, Andre Schurrle played wide on the left with Willian central behind Fernando Torres.
The defence was unchanged for a 10th game but ahead of them it was all change with Nemanja Matic returning after European ineligibility and Frank Lampard starting.
Stoke made one change, Wilson Palacios coming into their midfield for Stephen Ireland.
Had Chelsea’s confidence been knocked by successive away defeats, that was a question before kick-off. By half-time, Stamford Bridge had witnessed an accomplished 45 minutes with plenty of good pressing and winning of the ball, and a fair number of attempts on goal, even if only one hit the back of the net and counted.
In the opening stages, Branislav Ivanovic had a rare go at a free-kick from over 30 yards out but he skied it. The right-back was involved more conventionally soon after when he squared to Lampard in the area but the midfielder miscued his kick.
The first genuine shot was from Torres on 10 minutes after Cesar Azpilicueta had won the ball high up the pitch but that went a couple of yards wide. Then Salah shot straight at the keeper, but the Blues were beginning to find a rhythm.
When Stoke did get forward on a rare occasion, Gary Cahill headed an Arnautovic cross behind for a corner, which is always a threat from the Potters, but the Chelsea defence dealt with the set-piece comfortably.
On 18 minutes, Willian took hold of a loose ball, cut inside and shot from outside the area. A deflection put curl on the ball and it needed a good save from Begovic to prevent the opening goal.
Ivanovic had another go at the target moments later, this time in open play, but although he went closer than his first attempt, he missed.
Midway through the half, Begovic again came between Chelsea and the first goal when Azpilicueta again picked the Potters’ pocket, this time from after the keeper’s poor throw. Pieters tried to chest the cross back but Torres nipped in. He got his shot on target but Begovic was able to smother.
The breakthrough came courtesy of the two January signings who couldn’t play midweek. Chelsea had Stoke pinned back for a lengthy spell prior to the goal. Matic got to the byline and cut back low. Salah from 15 yards out caught his first-time shot sweetly, keeping it down, and although Begovic did get a touch with his leg, there was no keeping it out.
Salah scored the last of the six goals in the previous home game, against Arsenal, and now he had put the Blues ahead on the half-hour.
For a brief moment it looked like Ivanovic had doubled the lead 10 minutes later with a power header after good work from Terry and Lampard, but the offside flag brought the celebration to a halt. Replays showed the call to be a close but correct one.
Just before the break, Lampard’s on-target shot was blocked by Pieters and no-one could get a final touch on a Willian ball across the goalmouth.
Stoke had barely broken out of their half, but at just 1-0 down, they were still in this game.
Mark Hughes made two changes at half-time in an attempt to get his side going. Charlie Adam came on for Palacios in midfield and Andy Wilkinson for Geoff Cameron at full-back.
Adam’s first contribution was a free-kick that was cleared, his second was a stamp onto the top of Schurrle’s foot in a challenge that resulted in treatment for the German. He continued on but was replaced by Hazard on 58 minutes, although it was not at that moment clear whether the change was tactical or due to injury.
Glenn Whelan was fortunate not to be booked for a challenge on Willian soon after the one on Schurrle.
The second goal was set up to be Lampard’s 50th Chelsea penalty when substitute Wilkinson chopped down Salah for a clear spot-kick. However, our vice-captain’s low strike was saved by Begovic, but thankfully it ran free for Lampard to complete the job from point-blank range. It was still a milestone goal – his 250th in club football – for West Ham, Swansea and Chelsea combined.
The goal that put the game to bed was a clean strike from the boot of Willian from just outside the area following a steady build-up from inside the Chelsea area, with Hazard finding Salah as Matic made a good run to make space, before the ball was given to the scorer for his third Chelsea goal. There were 72 minutes played.
Ashley Cole made his return after a month out, coming on for Willian with David Luiz introduced earlier for Lampard. Cole played ahead of Azpilicueta down the left.
The closing moments of the game passed quiet, and as had been the case throughout almost all the game, nothing from the visitors for Petr Cech to be concerned about. m
On Friday, Mourinho challenged his side to win all six of the remaining league games, and they had duly complied with the first test.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Lampard (David Luiz 69), Matic; Salah, Willian (Cole 78), Schurrle; Torres.
Unused subs Schwarzer, Kalas, Oscar, Hazard, Ba.
Scorers Salah 30, Lampard 60, Willian 72.
Stoke (4-5-1): Begovic; Cameron (Wilkinson h-t), Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters; Odemwingie, Whelan, Palacios (Adam h-t), Nzonzi, Arnautovic; Crouch (Walters 78).
Unused subs Sorensen; Muniesa, Guidetti, Etherington
Referee Lee Probert