Chelsea 5 – 0 Stoke City
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte said his side’s comprehensive victory over Stoke rounded off a great 2017.
Struggling Stoke – missing five defenders and fielding two teenagers at full-back – trailed within three minutes when Antonio Rudiger headed home Willian’s free-kick.
The Premier League champions, who rested Eden Hazard, doubled their lead when Danny Drinkwater fired home on the bounce from 25 yards out, and Pedro added a third from just outside the box with only a quarter of the game gone.
Stoke striker Mame Biram Diouf had a goal harshly ruled out after using his upper arm to control a long ball before smashing home.
The game almost descended into a training match, with Chelsea – who move above Manchester United into second place – going 50 minutes before adding a fourth through Willian’s penalty.
Davide Zappacosta scored a late fifth from 20 yards out as the Blues made it five wins from their last six games.
Conte led the Blues to the title last season in his first year in charge, but they now trail leaders Manchester City by 13 points.
“Today, we finished a great year for us – for the club, for the fans, for the players, for me,” Conte told BBC Match of the Day.
“For a first experience in the league, to win the title is not easy, so I have to thank the club for giving me this opportunity.
“Manchester City are on a fantastic run. We just have to give everything in every game to try and get three points, and then at the end of the season we will see what happens.”
Chelsea can afford to rest players
Danny Drinkwater – making only his third Premier League start for Chelsea – scored the Blues’ second
With Wednesday’s trip to top-four rivals Arsenal in mind, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte left Hazard on the bench and never needed to consider bringing him on.
The game was so straightforward, he could probably have rested his entire first 11.
Conte made three changes from the side who beat Brighton 2-0 on Boxing Day, and the first four goals were scored or set up by the trio to come in – Pedro, Willian and Drinkwater.
Rudiger rose highest to head an early opener from Willian’s set piece, before Pedro’s deflected cross found Drinkwater to smash home his first Chelsea goal.
Willian then picked out Pedro to score a third.
The second half lacked any competitive edge and Conte was able to bring off N’Golo Kante, Alvaro Morata – who missed two relatively straightforward chances – and Victor Moses to keep them fresh for Wednesday.
Willian scored a penalty after he had been fouled by Geoff Cameron, and Zappacosta scored his first Premier League goal from just outside the box late on.