Hat trick hero Alvaro Morata Chelsea's main man in life after Diego Costa
Chelsea coasted to an impressive 4-0 win over Stoke City at the bet365 Stadium on Saturday, with Alvaro Morata showing there's life after Diego Costa.
Morata, assisted twice by Cesar Azpilicueta, plundered his first Blues hat trick in the week Costa finally left for Atletico Madrid. Fellow Spaniard Pedro also found the net as Antonio Conte's side eased through their gears to thrash sorry Stoke.
Six goals in six Premier League games for Morata tells its own story. Chelsea's record £60 million signing is rapidly repaying his transfer fee.
Picky maybe, but there is a streak of ill-discipline that needs to be monitored by Antonio Conte. Against Stoke it was Marcos Alonso's turn to lose the plot previously lost this season by David Luiz and Gary Cahill. Fortunately, this time, the Chelsea manager was able to withdraw Alonso before he was sent off.
Manager rating out of 10
9 -- Conte's decision to favour youth over experience caught the eye with the Italian retaining the services of defenders Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko, who all started the midweek League Cup tie against Nottingham Forest. The upcoming away Champions League tie with Atletico may have influenced the Chelsea manager's decision to drop skipper Cahill, Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard to the bench. It was a bold move which might have invited criticism had the result not gone his way. The moral of the story? Conte knows best.
Player ratings (1-10, 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 7 -- A regular feature of Chelsea's games is Courtois' lack of involvement until that moment when the Belgium international's concentration is tested when the opposition create a chance. The keeper kept his focus and was always on point on the rare occasions Stoke threatened. Stayed the course despite a heavy fall midway through the second half.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 9 -- With Cahill once again out of the starting XI, Azpilicueta took the captain's armband and led by example. Flighted a lovely ball for Morata to find the net early on and made some impressive blocks when Stoke finally woke up. A second assist for Morata to complete his hat trick rounded off a fine performance.
DF Andreas Christensen, 8 -- A pointer to the future, Christensen replaced the suspended Luiz to take up the central ball-playing position in Chelsea's backline. The 21-year old looked composed and confident. Was unfazed when Stoke applied pressure.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 8 -- Mobile and solid, Rudiger's ability to block and tackle was fully tested early in the second half as Stoke pressed forward and the Germany international gave no quarter.
MF Victor Moses, 7 -- An industrious performance on the right flank, Moses worked the channel well making some probing runs and, pleasingly, the Nigeria international looked equally capable in defence. He won't be giving up his place to Davide Zappacosta just yet.
MF N'Golo Kante, 8 -- Always comfortable on the ball and spatially aware, Kante controlled midfield from the first whistle to the last and provided guidance for Tiemoue Bakayoko. The duo are a model of efficiency in Chelsea's engine room.
MF Tiemoue Bakayoko, 7 -- Set the pace early in midfield and initiated the move which resulted in Morata's opener but was culpable perhaps of having too many touches on the ball instead of passing quickly. Grew in stature and confidence as the game developed.
MF Marcos Alonso, 4 -- Surprisingly, Alonso had looked the weak link defensively for Chelsea long before he lost his composure early in the second half and was booked for a rash challenge on Joe Allen. Lucky perhaps to escape a second yellow moments later when going in hard on Mame Biram Diouf, the Spaniard was sensibly withdrawn by Conte shortly after.
FW Pedro, 8 -- Blessed with tenacity and skill, Pedro needs little encouragement to try his luck from distance. Gifted the ball by Stoke skipper Darren Fletcher, the Spaniard picked up possession, ran to the edge of the box and clinically drilled it past Jack Butland. Perfect.
FW Willian, 5 -- Never got into his stride and some poor passing in the first half afforded Stoke possession they didn't really deserve. Replaced by Eden Hazard for the final phase of the game, the Brazilian could be set for an extended spell on the bench.
FW Alvaro Morata, 10 -- Full marks for Morata's first Chelsea hat trick. Showed great awareness to stay onside and race on to Azpilicueta's through ball to score the opener. The Spain international oozed class throughout the game and doubled his tally with another fine individual goal before tapping in his third. It's taken a long time for the London club to find a striker worthy of wearing the prestigious No.9 shirt -- in Morata they appear to have finally found their man.
DF Gary Cahill, 7 -- Dependable when replacing Alonso on the hour mark and going into the back three as Azpilicueta moved to wing-back.
MF Cesc Fabregas, 7 -- Came on for Pedro for the final phase of the game and gave Chelsea the added creativity that helped bring about Stoke's capitulation.
FW Eden Hazard, N/R -- Replaced Willian in the 72nd minute and tormented the home side's defence for 20 minutes.
Mark Worrall is one of ESPN FC's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @gate17marco