Didier Drogba's assured finish earned Chelsea a narrow victory over 10-man Stoke in Roberto di Matteo's first Premier League game in charge.
Stoke played most of the game with 10 men after Ricardo Fuller was shown a straight red card for a stamp on Branislav Ivanovic.
Chelsea hit the bar twice but had to be patient against a dogged Stoke side.
But Drogba eventually made the breakthrough, rounding Asmir Begovic to record his 100th Premier League goal.
The best club managers in world football have been linked with the Chelsea vacancy following Andre Villas-Boas's sacking and, while it is perhaps inevitable that the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho are coveted by Blues owner Roman Abramovich, Chelsea will first need to secure Champions League football under Di Matteo to attract the coaches they crave.
This win takes them level on 49 points with fourth-placed Arsenal, having played a game more.
The Italian gave the old guard a vote of confidence by including Frank Lampard, Salomon Kalou and Drogba in the starting line-up. Captain John Terry and Ashley Cole also returned to a Chelsea side with an average age of 28.5.
Ricardo Fuller stamped on Ivanovic, and it had to be a red card. Juan Mata was a tactical change from Di Matteo, brought on halfway through the first half. Stoke made it difficult, but Chelsea hit the woodwork three times and it could have been more than 1-0.
Chelsea fired a couple of early warning signs with Ivanovic heading over Lampard's corner before Gary Cahill forced a diving save from Begovic after a purposeful run and shot from the edge of the box.
Stoke fashioned only one clear chance during a first half in which they were second best but, after Terry lost his footing and allowed Jonathan Walters a clear run at goal, Cahill got across to make a diving block.
Stoke, who have not won at Stamford Bridge in the league since a 1-0 victory in April 1974, made their task a lot harder when Fuller was shown a straight red card for an unnecessary stamp on Ivanovic, leaving referee Andre Marriner with no choice but to dismiss the striker.
Chelsea were positive throughout and hit the woodwork twice before half-time, with Terry's header grazing the crossbar before Ivanovic pounced on a poor headed clearance by Robert Huth to hammer a shot against the bar.
Stoke were disciplined and determined throughout and, even after the introductions of Juan Mata and David Luiz, the Potters repelled wave after wave of Chelsea attack, with Begovic doing well to keep out Drogba's goalbound free-kick.
Terry fired a low shot a whisker wide moments later but Chelsea finally penetrated the Stoke defence - and it came courtesy of another Stamford Bridge stalwart.
Latching onto Mata's through-ball 12 yards out, Drogba kept his head to poke the ball around Begovic and stroke into the empty net, becoming the first African player to reach the milestone of 100 Premier League goals.
TOP AFRICAN SCORERS IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE
100 goals - Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast)
99 - Yakubu (Nigeria)
72 - Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo)
54 - Nwankwo Kanu (Nigeria)
53 - Efan Ekoku (Nigeria)
Stoke replied with a short period of pressure, but the best the visitors could muster was an effort from the halfway line by Andy Wilkinson that almost caught out Petr Cech and a speculative effort from Cameron Jerome, who could only thump a shot into the advertising hoardings despite being one-on-one with Cahill.
But Cahill and Terry, playing together for the first time for Chelsea, were commanding at the back and Stoke rarely threatened.
Mata could have made the win certain but his beautifully struck free-kick hit the post, before substitute Daniel Sturridge shot just wide after cutting in from the right.
Chelsea dominated the game and, while Abramovich was not at Stamford Bridge for the game, the Russian will be hoping Di Matteo can replicate Guus Hiddink's achievement in 2009 of steering the club towards a late-season flourish.
- 01 Cech
- 02 Ivanovic (Luiz - 46' )
- 03 Cole
- 24 Cahill
- 26 Terry
- 07 Ramires
- 08 Lampard
- 12 Mikel Booked (Sturridge - 67' )
- 16 Meireles (Mata - 37' )
- 11 Drogba
- 21 Kalou
- 22 Turnbull
- 04 Luiz
- 05 Essien
- 06 Romeu
- 09 Torres
- 10 Mata
- 23 Sturridge
- 01 Begovic
- 04 Huth
- 17 Shawcross
- 28 Wilkinson
- 30 Shotton
- 12 Wilson Booked (Upson - 50' )
- 15 Diao Booked (Palacios - 50' )
- 18 Whitehead
- 09 Jones (Jerome - 60' )
- 10 Fuller Dismissed
- 19 Walters
- 29 Sorensen
- 20 Upson
- 16 Pennant
- 24 Delap
- 40 Palacios
- 25 Crouch
- 33 Jerome
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The game is over, as the referee blows his whistle.89:55
Daniel Sturridge takes a shot. Blocked by Matthew Upson. Outswinging corner taken by Juan Mata from the left by-line, clearance by Ryan Shotton.89:24
Didier Drogba challenges Ryan Shawcross unfairly and gives away a free kick. Ryan Shawcross restarts play with the free kick.87:31
Ramires fouled by Robert Huth, the ref awards a free kick. David Luiz takes the free kick.86:51
David Luiz is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Asmir Begovic takes the indirect free kick.85:52
Dean Whitehead concedes a free kick for a foul on Ramires. Juan Mata fires a strike on goal direct from the free kick.84:29
Daniel Sturridge produces a left-footed shot from just outside the box that goes wide right of the goal.82:21
Cameron Jerome produces a right-footed shot from just outside the box that misses to the right of the target.81:01
Wilson Palacios fouled by Ramires, the ref awards a free kick. Dean Whitehead delivers the ball from the free kick right-footed from left channel, save by Petr Cech.79:45
Cameron Jerome fouled by Didier Drogba, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by Dean Whitehead.77:44
Effort from long range by Andy Wilkinson goes wide left of the goal.73:48
Andy Wilkinson fouled by Didier Drogba, the ref awards a free kick. Asmir Begovic restarts play with the free kick.73:08
Effort from inside the area by Jonathan Walters misses to the right of the target.72:07
Salomon Kalou challenges Wilson Palacios unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Asmir Begovic.70:39
Corner taken by Juan Mata from the right by-line to the near post, Dean Whitehead manages to make a clearance.69:04
Frank Lampard takes a shot. Save by Asmir Begovic.67:29
Assist by Juan Mata.67:29 Goal scored
Goal! - Didier Drogba - Chelsea 1 - 0 Stoke Didier Drogba grabs a goal from inside the six-yard box low into the middle of the goal. Chelsea 1-0 Stoke.66:49 Substitution
Substitution Daniel Sturridge comes on in place of Mikel.66:02
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Juan Mata, clearance by Andy Wilkinson.
Matthew Upson concedes a free kick for a foul on Frank Lampard. Didier Drogba has an effort direct from the free kick, Asmir Begovic makes a save.64:12
Shot by Ashley Cole from outside the area goes high over the crossbar.63:51
Inswinging corner taken by Juan Mata from the right by-line.63:02
Corner from the right by-line taken by Juan Mata, clearance made by Cameron Jerome.62:27
Ryan Shotton gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Ashley Cole. John Terry restarts play with the free kick.59:24 Substitution
Substitution Cameron Jerome is brought on as a substitute for Kenwyne Jones.59:09
Shot from a long way out by John Terry goes wide of the left-hand upright.58:10
Centre by Juan Mata, clearance by Robert Huth.57:40
Corner taken by Juan Mata from the right by-line, Asmir Begovic makes a save.56:58
David Luiz takes a shot. Save made by Asmir Begovic.56:07
Wilson Palacios takes a shot. Clearance by John Terry.55:38
Corner taken by Dean Whitehead played to the near post, Didier Drogba makes a clearance.55:05
Free kick awarded for a foul by David Luiz on Jonathan Walters. Dean Whitehead takes the direct free kick.53:13
Ryan Shawcross concedes a free kick for a foul on Didier Drogba. Free kick taken by Salomon Kalou.51:44
Juan Mata takes a inswinging corner.51:23
Ryan Shotton gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Ashley Cole. Frank Lampard takes the direct free kick.50:58
Ryan Shotton gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Mikel. Ashley Cole takes the free kick.49:29 Substitution
Substitution Marc Wilson leaves the field to be replaced by Matthew Upson.49:29 Substitution
Substitution Salif Diao leaves the field to be replaced by Wilson Palacios.48:29
Frank Lampard takes a shot. Save made by Asmir Begovic.47:23
Free kick awarded for a foul by Ashley Cole on Ryan Shotton. Direct free kick taken by Asmir Begovic.46:17
Foul by Marc Wilson on Ramires, free kick awarded. Free kick crossed left-footed by Juan Mata, Asmir Begovic makes a save.45:40
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Didier Drogba by Ryan Shawcross. Frank Lampard restarts play with the free kick.45:01
The referee starts the second half.45:01 Substitution
Substitution Branislav Ivanovic goes off and David Luiz comes on.45:00 +3:26 Half time
Half Time It is the end of the first-half.45:00 +1:47
Juan Mata gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Jonathan Walters. Asmir Begovic restarts play with the free kick.45:00 +0:17
Ramires is caught offside. Asmir Begovic restarts play with the free kick.42:14
Unfair challenge on Kenwyne Jones by Gary Cahill results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Dean Whitehead.41:22
Frank Lampard takes a shot. Save made by Asmir Begovic.40:03
Branislav Ivanovic takes a shot.39:26
Ramires takes a shot. Blocked by Salif Diao.39:21
Frank Lampard sends in a cross, Ryan Shawcross manages to make a clearance.39:02
Short corner taken by Frank Lampard.37:46
Free kick taken by Mikel.37:46 Booking
Booking Marc Wilson goes into the book.37:42
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Ramires by Marc Wilson.36:43
Dean Whitehead restarts play with the free kick.36:43 Substitution
Substitution Juan Mata joins the action as a substitute, replacing Raul Meireles.36:43
Unfair challenge on Dean Whitehead by Mikel results in a free kick.35:14
Branislav Ivanovic takes a shot. Save by Asmir Begovic.34:04
Shot by Frank Lampard from a long way out goes over the target.29:57
Corner taken by Frank Lampard from the right by-line, John Terry takes a shot.29:31
Corner taken by Frank Lampard from the right by-line.28:41
Raul Meireles has an effort at goal from outside the area missing to the wide left of the goal.24:33
Direct free kick taken by Petr Cech.24:33 Dismissal
Dismissal Ricardo Fuller is shown a red card for violent conduct.24:23
Ricardo Fuller gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Branislav Ivanovic.20:44
Branislav Ivanovic fouled by Ricardo Fuller, the ref awards a free kick. Frank Lampard crosses the ball in from the free kick, clearance by Kenwyne Jones.18:08
Free kick taken by Marc Wilson.18:08 Booking
Booking The referee books Mikel for unsporting behaviour.18:02
Foul by Mikel on Jonathan Walters, free kick awarded.16:59
Jonathan Walters takes a shot. Blocked by Gary Cahill. Jonathan Walters produces a right-footed shot from deep inside the penalty box which goes wide of the right-hand upright.13:48
Raul Meireles restarts play with the free kick.13:48 Booking
Booking Salif Diao is shown a yellow card.13:44
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Ramires by Salif Diao.13:27
Kenwyne Jones takes a shot. Blocked by Gary Cahill.12:39
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Salomon Kalou by Andy Wilkinson. Free kick crossed by Frank Lampard, save by Asmir Begovic.11:13
Didier Drogba takes a shot. Dean Whitehead gets a block in.10:12
Free kick awarded for a foul by Kenwyne Jones on Mikel. Direct free kick taken by Mikel.9:19
Inswinging corner taken by Frank Lampard from the left by-line, clearance by Robert Huth.9:08
Gary Cahill takes a shot. Save by Asmir Begovic.7:57
Robert Huth has an effort at goal from 35 yards and went wide left of the goal.6:44
Gary Cahill challenges Kenwyne Jones unfairly and gives away a free kick. Ryan Shawcross takes the direct free kick.3:30
Corner taken by Frank Lampard from the right by-line, Branislav Ivanovic produces a header from inside the area that goes over the crossbar.3:10
Outswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Frank Lampard, Kenwyne Jones manages to make a clearance.2:53
Mikel takes a shot. Blocked by Ryan Shawcross.1:49
Corner taken right-footed by Frank Lampard, Kenwyne Jones makes a clearance.0:00
The referee gets the match started.
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