Football

From troubled to Terry-fic

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho was full of praise for John Terry after the skipper's early goal helped the Blues secure a 2-0 win at Stoke yesterday morning (Singapore time) and the Premier League Christmas No. 1 spot.

Terry headed past Asmir Begovic in the second minute from a corner delivered by Cesc Fabregas, who later wrapped up the victory by netting himself with a scuffed 78th-minute effort.

And Mourinho feels his 34-year-old captain - a centre back now to have scored in 15 successive top-flight seasons - is playing as well as he was during his first spell as Chelsea manager.

"When he is on the pitch, he is always a threat," the Portuguese said of ex-England man Terry.

"But more important for me than the goal is the way he is playing this season, again.

"When I came here (in the summer of 2013), he was a bit in trouble, his career was a bit up and down and he was not playing regularly for Chelsea.

"But he has played basically every game and, for me, at the same level as from 2004-2007 when I was here.

"I think he adapts well to our training methodology - it's a good way for a person with his body type to feel sharp and fast and in good condition. After that, it's happiness.

"When you're happy and confident, it's easier in any job."

The win means Chelsea will spend Christmas three points clear of second-placed Manchester City.

The Stoke fixture had looked a tricky prospect and got feisty at times but, overall, the visitors controlled proceedings admirably.

They coped well when Stoke got physical, and although Mourinho suggested one rash-looking challenge on Blues playmaker Eden Hazard by Phil Bardsley - which earned the Potters defender a booking - merited a red card, he stressed that overall he had regarded the game as "aggressive" but "fair".

He said the victory meant "more than just the three points, because to win here, you need to show more than just your quality".

The only worry for Mourinho was Hazard having to be substituted late on due to what looked like an ankle injury, and it remains to be seen if the Belgium international will be fit to face West Ham on Boxing Day.

Meanwhile, Stoke boss Mark Hughes, said of match: "It was the worst possible start for us, but credit to us - I thought we stuck at it and kept probing.

"It was difficult, because Chelsea were happy to protect the initial lead - they are quite able to take the sting out of games, which comes from experience." - PA Sport.