Rampant Chelsea blow away Stoke City, return to summit


Chelsea swept aside Stoke City 7-0 to swagger back to the top of the Premier League and leave themselves two wins away from their first title since 2006.

A Salomon Kalou hat-trick, two goals for midfielder Frank Lampard and one each for Daniel Sturridge and Florent Malouda lifted Chelsea to 80 points, one ahead of champions Manchester United, who beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 on Saturday.

It was a record top-flight win for Chelsea and all the more impressive for coming against a team who, along with United, had shared the league’s best away defensive record with just 16 conceded.

The Londoners have scored seven three times this season and now have an eight-superior goal difference to United with two games each remaining.

Earlier on Sunday, Burnley lost 4-0 at home to Liverpool to seal their relegation, Aston Villa beat Birmingham City 1-0 to stay in the hunt for fourth place and Everton defeated Fulham 2-1 thanks to a stoppage-time Mikel Arteta penalty.

Having been knocked out of their stride by Tottenham Hotspur last week, Chelsea were on their game from the first whistle to the last at Stamford Bridge, slicing Stoke apart with wave after wave of incisive attacks.

Kalou stooped low to head the first goal after 24 minutes and he controversially forced in the second after 31, his studs-up, two-footed slide putting the ball into the net and Stoke keeper Thomas Sorensen into hospital with a dislocated elbow.

A Lampard penalty made it 3-0 at halftime and, after easing off the pedal after the break, the Londoners surged home with four goals in the last 22 minutes.

Kalou completed his hat-trick at the second attempt before Lampard reached 20 league goals for the season with his cleverly-finished second.

Sturridge broke clear for the sixth and Malouda, who had earlier missed from two yards, bundled in the seventh.

“We played very well, we started very well and were very concentrated,” Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti told Sky Sports.

“We maintained good discipline for 90 minutes, we played quickly. I said at halftime to continue to play.

“We are very close to the title, it’s in our hands but we have a very difficult game with Liverpool.”

Ancelotti said he was happy with the goal rush but felt goal difference would not decide the championship.

“I don’t think we will be even (on points) with Manchester United,” he said. “One team will be first.”

Chelsea’s last two matches are away to Liverpool and home to Wigan Athletic while United visit Sunderland and host Stoke on May 9, the final day of the league season.

At the other end of the table, Burnley’s relegation after one season in the Premier League was confirmed by another hefty home defeat.

They were promoted after a 33-year-absence from the top flight and got off to a flyer with victories over Manchester United and Everton but just four points from their travels ensured their relegation along with Portsmouth.

Hull, who lost 1-0 at home to Sunderland on Saturday, will join them barring a mathematical miracle in the final matches.

Liverpool’s win kept them in with an outside chance of snatching fourth. They are on 62 points, one behind Manchester City and two behind Villa, who won the Birmingham derby with a controversial late James Milner penalty.

Tottenham are fourth, also on 64 but with a game in hand on Villa and Liverpool, who got all their goals in the second half.

Two for England midfielder, Steven Gerrard, one deflected and one a superb 25-metre curler, a -club first for Maxi Rodriguez and one for Ryan Babel rewarded their dominance.