CHELSEA TV EXCLUSIVE: SALAH'S START

Mohamed Salah spoke to Chelsea TV shortly after his full debut match and following a successful 3-0 result against Stoke, a goal and a hand in the other two, the January signing was pleased with his 90 minutes.

A clip of Salah’s post-match thoughts can be viewed above (subject to registration).

In the full interview, which can be watched now via the channel’s online access, Salah talks about his position on the pitch, the penalty he won, his fitness levels and about being such a prolific scorer at international level.

FINAL WHISTLE VERDICT: WELL DESERVED VICTORY

The Blues returned to winning ways, and the top of the Barclays Premier League table, courtesy of a comfortable 3-0 win over Stoke City at Stamford Bridge.

After dominating for much of the first half, the deadlock was broken just after the half-hour mark when Mohamed Salah, making his first start for the club, converted from a Nemanja Matic cross.

Frank Lampard extended our lead in the second half when, after seeing his penalty saved by Asmir Begovic, the midfielder reacted quickest to score from the rebound, and Willian capped an impressive display with a fine individual strike to make it 3-0.

Jose Mourinho, who is yet to lose a league game at Stamford Bridge, started the game with both Eden Hazard and Oscar on the bench, although the Belgian was introduced midway through the second half.

The Portuguese was pleased with the way his side reacted to two disappointing defeats in succession.

‘It took 10 or 15 minutes to recover a bit of self-esteem and confidence after two defeats,’ said the Portuguese.

‘After that the team played well, especially in the first half. I liked the way we played for 25-30 minutes in the first half. In the second half with the second goal the match was under control. We deserved the points, we go back to victories, it’s an important three points for the Premier League but it’s also important because it’s one thing to start Tuesday’s match after a defeat, but another to start that game after a victory.’

Andre Schurrle limped out of the game following a tough Charlie Adam tackle, but Mourinho expects to have him available for Tuesday’s game against Paris Saint-Germain.
‘I believe he will be okay to play. I like aggressive football and I can’t get inside the mind of a player to decide if the intention was to hurt or not, so it’s fine for me.’

On the performance of Willian, who thrived in a central role
‘The goal was really good but I think a player with his quality, that gives so much to the team, not just in possession but in the defensive work and balance of the team, I want to see him score more goals. He has to do that in the second season, he has to bring his game into other levels.’

Mourinho was equally pleased with Mohamed Salah’s display on his first start
‘Chelsea did very well, we sold a great player [Juan Mata], a finished product in the best moment of his career. We bought a kid from a different habitat, an Egyptian player playing in Switzerland.

‘We know he needs time, we know next season he will be an important player for us. This season, step by step, he’s playing 10 minutes here and there. You can feel the connection between him and the crowd; the crowd like him, they like his style of play.

‘He’s the type of player we need because we have wingers who prefer to play with the ball at their feet, he’s the type of player who prefers the ball into space. Chelsea did very well to bring him, next season with him, Eden, Willian and Oscar, they will have more strength and experience, they have a good future.’

The manager believes our players need to adapt to the challenges playing away from home brings
‘At home they feel more comfortable, the team has more of the ball and the opponents aren’t so aggressive. At home it’s a good way to become better but in the Premier League you play 19 at home and 19 away.

‘Obviously you must get more points at home but away you have matches where the players need to change their profile, they have to adapt to the situation but it takes time.’

The clean sheet was our eighth in a row at home, and Mourinho is hopeful of another on Tuesday
‘If we concede one goal against Paris or keep a clean sheet we have a chance. If we concede two and have to score five, we can’t do the job, so it’s important to defend well.

‘A clean sheet would be perfect but even if we concede one goal we have a chance to give them a fight.’

Former Chelsea striker Mark Hughes was disappointed with the performance of his Stoke side.

‘We didn’t have enough players at their maximum today,’ he said. ‘You can’t come to Stamford Bridge and have that. We weren’t able to ask enough questions of a good Chelsea team.

‘They carry a strong squad and the players that come in and come off the bench are of a high quality.’

MATCH REPORT: CHELSEA 3 STOKE CITY 0

Summary
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.

Team News
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.

First half
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.

Second half
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
Crowd 41,168

SEAT PRICE FREEZE FOR 2014/15

General admission ticket prices for next season at Stamford Bridge are unchanged for the fourth year running.

The freeze applies to season tickets and individual match tickets in the non-hospitality sections of the stadium, and includes seats sold to members and those which go on general sale.

Home domestic cup games remain at discounted rates for all ages regardless of the round of the competition or the opposition. European group stage games will also remain discounted and tickets for European knockout games are frozen.

The proportion of Premier League games in each of the three price categories is also unchanged.

In addition to the price news, there are three major changes to the club’s ticket policy applicable from the 2014/15 season.

Five loyalty points will be awarded for each ticket bought for any appearance the team may make in the UEFA Super Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup or the FA Community Shield. Previously there were no loyalty points for such games.

Also, for the first time the away matches at Crystal Palace, Fulham and West Ham will all be sold on a loyalty-points basis. The third major change is that disabled supporters will be able to purchase tickets by telephone.

Previous prize freezes covered the period between 2006 and 2010. Next season’s tickets will be the same as 2011/12 levels.

Chief Executive Ron Gourlay said: ‘It is the seventh time in nine seasons there has been a price freeze at Stamford Bridge for Premier League and European knockout-phase tickets in non-hospitality seating, and during that time there has been a reduction in prices for European group games.

‘Financial Fair Play continues to challenge clubs but everyone at Chelsea Football Club is working very hard to grow our business revenue worldwide.

‘Under Jose Mourinho’s management the squad will continue to evolve and it is our ambition to make the 2014/15 season an exciting one. Of course our fans play an important role in our challenge for major honours.’

Season-ticket renewal forms and the full ticket policies for next season will be available later this month.

MATIC: FINDING A WAY

Ineligibility restricted Nemanja Matic to a watching brief on Wednesday night, so it is no surprise the midfielder is looking forward to being a little closer to the action later today.

As a result of having already played in the Champions League for Benfica this season, including in a home victory against Paris Saint-Germain in December, Matic has not been able to represent his current side in Europe. With this in mind, the official Chelsea website caught up with our Serbian to find out what he got up to while the majority of his teammates were in France.

‘I stayed here and I trained for two sessions with the Under-21s,’ reports Matic. ‘I tried to do the same job like I do with the first team. I tried to be focused but as you know I like to play football and I like to play Champions League games.

‘Of course it is not easy for me to stay at home and watch the game on TV, but when I came here I already knew I couldn’t play and I had to live with this and make sure I was 100% focused for the games I could play.’

As a Benfica player that played twice against PSG in the group stages, Matic says he was able to pass on some advice to his current colleagues about what to expect from the French champions and he believes that, despite the first-leg deficit, we have a chance of progression because of the depth of quality within our ranks.

Matic Chelsea

That view is perhaps enhanced by Matic’s take on Wednesday’s defeat, seen through the eyes of a spectator, and not a participant.

‘I watched it at home with my family,’ he says. ‘It’s different watching on TV. When we scored I was so happy and in that moment I felt like a fan.

‘What I can say about the game is that we controlled it until maybe 60 minutes when we conceded the second goal. We played well overall but after the second goal it was very difficult for us.’

Before we can consider the prospect of any sort of turnaround in Europe we must return to winning ways domestically following last weekend’s setback at Crystal Palace. It was against Stoke, today’s opposition at Stamford Bridge, that Matic made his full debut for the club back in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Reflecting on his time in west London since then, the midfielder is able to draw some conclusions not only from that 1-0 victory in January but his experiences more broadly as we go for three more points today.

‘When you come to a different league, and especially the Premier League because it’s probably the best in the world, you always learn something and you always have to improve something. In Portugal they don’t play like they do here. It is different football and you have to adapt to that.

‘Every game is different so it doesn’t matter if we have already played Stoke at home. We expect another hard game because they have a good team. We are playing at home though and we have to use that to our advantage. We have to find a way to play our game like we played against Arsenal – playing good football, enjoying our time on the pitch and scoring goals.’

– Sky customers can watch Chelsea TV’s Pre-Match at the Bridge show completely FREE. Join Ben Andrews and Jason Cundy from 4.30pm on channel 421.