Chelsea cement top spot
London - Florent Malouda's first half goal and a second half penalty from Didier Drogba ensured Chelsea extended their perfect start to the Premier League campaign with a 2-0 win over Stoke on Saturday.
Carlo Ancelotti's side never looked capable of recording a third successive 6-0 victory but the comfortable win means they continue to set an impressive pace at the top of the league table with maximum points from their opening three games.
The margin of victory at Stamford Bridge could have been even more convincing had Frank Lampard not missed a tenth minute penalty, but Ancelotti will undoubtedly forgive that error after his side's impressive recent run which has now brought 31 goals in six league games going back to last season.
The build-up to this game had been given a fractious edge after Asmir Begovic refused to turn out in the midweek League Cup tie against Shrewsbury after Stoke turned down Chelsea's bid for the keeper.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis was incensed by Begovic's attitude but the Bosnian was included as back up for Thomas Sorensen at Stamford Bridge and is now expected to remain at the Britannia Stadium with Chelsea unlikely to up their bid.
It quickly became clear that the visitors would be in for a long afternoon of desperate defending when Michael Essien's cleverly weighted pass released Ashley Cole free on goal, only for the left back to pull his shot beyond the far post.
Stoke responded in kind with Dean Whitehead testing Petr Cech with a low drive before Jonathan Walters was unfortunate to see his improvised lob land on the roof of Cech's net.
That appeared only to have the effect of injecting more life into Chelsea's play, however, and when Malouda went tumbling under Ryan Shawcross' mis-timed tackle to win a penalty in the tenth minute, it appeared as though the flood-gates were about to open.
Up stepped Lampard to take the spot-kick but the England midfielder struck his effort too close to Sorensen and the visitors were given a reprieve.
It was Lampard's third successive miss from 12 yards - he fluffed efforts in the FA Cup final and in England's friendly with Japan last season - and provided the first blemish on Chelsea's almost flawless start to the campaign.
Drogba attempted to atone for his team-mates error when he forced a sharp save out of Sorensen with a long range free kick before Essien headed over.
Just as Stoke were eyeing the possibility of reaching half time on level terms, John Terry surged forward from defence and played in Malouda, who lifted the ball over the advancing keeper to break the deadlock in the 32nd minute.
By Chelsea's recent standards, that had seemed like an age and Cole came close to immediately adding a second when he hit the bar a minute later.
As commendable as Stoke's rearguard action had been, they had provided only limited evidence of their ability to force their way back into the game.
But as long as they trailed by just a solitary goal, they remained in the contest.
Drogba should have given the home side more breathing space five minutes after the restart when he headed straight at Sorensen from just eight yards.
And that miss might have proved costly had the striker not blocked Matthew Etherington's powerful shot from a Stoke corner two minutes later.
Pulis's side came even closer to levelling in the 67th minute when substitute Glenn Whelan sent a long range drive crashing against the crossbar.
Chelsea finally made sure of the points when Sorensen needlessly upended Nicolas Anelka as he surged into the area and Drogba finished from the spot with 14 minutes remaining.