The 31 year-old may not show the heart-on-sleeve expressionism of Frank
Lampard or the muscular leadership of John Terry, his two great Stamford
Bridge contemporaries, yet there is no doubting Cole’s value to the
Cole has not always been universally appreciated – even among
“He’s an absolutely fantastic pro, one of the first out in training, someone you could go to war with,” Di Matteo, the Chelsea manager said. “He’s a quiet guy, very private at his own stuff. He’s one of the best left-backs in the world. He’s physically very good, very strong and has the ability to recover very quickly from game to game. He offers us a lot on the left-hand side.”
“He has become a legend, Chelsea through and through. He’s been here many years and has contributed a lot to this club.”
If you are going to wait two and a half years for a goal, then make it one that counts. That is what Cole provided to quell a Stoke side who had not only absorbed Chelsea’s steady probings, but looked capable, especially in the final 20 minutes, of scoring themselves.
Five minutes from the end, however, Cole barrelled forwards, the ball being
worked on by Lampard to reach Branislav Ivanovic, whose cross from the right
was directed onwards by Juan Mata for Cole to stab past
Ivanovic then heaped praise on his fellow full-back. “Ash has everything. He has skill, he has speed, he can overlap, he is defensively good, has a good reading of the game,” he said. “For me Ash is the best left-back in the world and has been for a long time. He always makes a lot of good things for the team.”
Stoke arrived having drawn all four previous league matches and so this was never going to be an afternoon of flowing entertainment.
Chelsea toiled in the sunshine, unable to create many clear openings; Stoke manned the barricades with typical determination and felt aggrieved to have left empty-handed.
Tony Pulis, the Stoke manager, was also unhappy at penalty-box tumbles by Ivanovic and Oscar – the latter was booked for simulation – but most of all David Luiz’s horrendous lunge at Jon Walters that referee Michael Oliver deemed worthy of only a yellow card.
“The worst thing is that Luiz’s challenge is a very poor one but because the referee’s seen it and booked him, he’s not going to miss a game,” Pulis said, just before Chelsea announced Luiz had signed a new £120,000-a-week five-year contract.
“It’s like a policeman watching a robber rob a bank and because he’s seen it, the police are going to let him off. Whereas if they didn’t see him, they’ll arrest him. It’s absolutely crazy.”