LONDON (AP) — Ashley Cole spared the blushes of Chelsea's $200 million attack today as the Premier League leaders left it late to secure a 1-0 victory over Stoke on Saturday.
Despite Fernando Torres being supported by the trio of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata for the first time up front, it was left to Cole to score his first goal since 2010 in the 85th minute to clinch the points.
It could easily have been a fourth straight match without a victory for Chelsea as Torres again failed to find the net and Jonathan Walters hit the crossbar for Stoke.
But Chelsea went three points ahead of Everton and West Bromwich Albion at the summit on a day when veterans John Terry and Frank Lampard were left out of the starting lineup.
Despite Chelsea enjoying more of the ball, Torres, Hazard, Oscar and Mata played like strangers.
Torres did nod Mata's corner over the top but, otherwise, the Champions League winners took too many touches, made one pass too many and allowed Stoke to gain in confidence.