Whilst it was Fabregas who orchestrated the victory with his creativity and goalscoring ability, the one man who really stood out was Nemanja Matic, who shielded his defence against a side notorious for their physical play. Despite being under pressure for much of the second half, Chelsea never truly faced a real goalscoring opportunity, and it was the Serbian destroyed who was largely the reason for the strong defensive display.
John Terry and Gary Cahill - playing in central defence - were largely untroubled by the threats of Peter Crouch, Bojan and Jon Walters, and, amazingly, they made just one tackle between them - all thanks the the shielding of the former Benfica midfielder.
|Blocks||Tackles||Clearances||Duels Won||Aerial Won||Interceptions||Accurate Passes|
Matic made an impressive nine tackles - five more than the closest Stoke player - and won 16 duels - also more than any player. He was a more complete defensive outlet than both Blues' central defenders, and it could be considered that Matic’s inclusion is the main reason Terry has been able to play on despite his advancing age and decreasing physicality. The only area Matic was outperformed by his defensive partners was in clearances, only completing five to Cahill and Terry’s eight each, although his more advanced position requires less in the way of clearances - as he favours to play the ball out into the midfield third with precision.
And it is his incredible passing ability that makes him much more than simply a midfield destroyer - and such a valuable part of Mourinho’s side.
|Accurate Pass||Passing Accuracy|
The 26-year-old played 43 passes - an impressive tally for the side less possession - with a completion rate of 87.8%. Used as the main outlet after clearing the ball from the box, Matic was often found laying the ball off to his more attacking teammates, and his playmaking abilities are impressive for one considered so defensive.
Matic has been a vital part of the Blues side since his transfer from Portugal last season, and the performance shown against Stoke is the kind that has found him called the best defensive midfielder in the world for 2014. Whilst his statistical game winning impact may be minimal, the effect he has upon the side is huge, and any success Chelsea will achieve will be largely down to the inclusion of the towering Serb.