The England defender was on hand to break the Potters resistance five minutes from full time to earn the Blues a vital win that stretches their lead at the top to three points. Cole’s intervention couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time as a Tony Pulis’ well drilled side threatened to leave West London.
After deciding to hand Oscar his first Premier League start by following his Champions League heroics in mid-week, Di Matteo chanced his hand again opting to rest Frank Lampard and John Terry . Lampards presence in the final third was sorely missed all afternoon as Fernando Torres turned in another disappointing performance, while Oscar, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata were guilty of overplaying.
Apart from Torres heading Mata’s corner over the top the home side rarely threatened and should have been punished by Stoke in the 20th minute when Walters rose unmarked to crash Glenn Whelan’s freekick against the crossbar. An air shot from Torres and a wild effort from David Luiz was the closest Chelsea came to testing Asmir Begovic in the first half.
The Bosnian keeper was called into action in the second half from Oscar’s low shot before Mata blazed wide after capitalising on a mix-up in the Potters back four. Matthew Etherington went close at the other end as anxiety levels started to hit their peak at the Bridge until Cole put the finishing touches to a slick build-up, latching onto Mata’s back heel and delicately lifting the ball over Begovic. It ensured Chelsea won for first win in four games and lifted some of the pressure building on Di Matteo’s shoulders