A late rare goal by Ashley Cole cruelly stole a point away from a battling Stoke City side at Stamford Bridge.
The England international found himself in unfamiliar territory but grabbed the winner for the European Champions with the calmness and composure of a veteran striker to keep the London outfit top of the league.
Ashley Cole started off the move by sprinting down the left hand side in the vacant space left by Stoke pushing forward in search of a winner of their own. The 31 year-old managed to start of a passing move which ended up with possession of the ball with Branislav Ivanovic who played a good cross along the floor into the box which found Spaniard Juan Mata who cleverly back heeled the ball into the path of Cole who had continued his run and the former Arsenal full back calmed flicked the ball over the on rushing Asmir Begovic and into the net from 6 yards out.
Stoke were the quickest out of the blocks at Stamford Bridge as Glenn Whelan whipped in a right wing free kick with Jon Walters rising highest in the penalty area but was unlucky to only see his header crash off the bar with Chelsea keeper Petr Cech stranded.
Chelsea had an early shout for a penalty when Torres and Hazard linked up well at the edge of the area and found Ivanovic who cut inside American international Geoff Cameron, who was deputising at right back for the suspended Andy Wilkinson, and seemingly was clipped, but the referee waved away any appeals for a penalty. The correct decision was made as replays show that it was the first of many acts of simulation from a Chelsea player during the afternoon. It is still unknown why referee Michael Oliver didn`t book the full back.
Fernando Torres nearly broke the deadlock after some clever work by Juan Mata who chipped the ball into the path of his fellow Spaniard but Torres could only control with his chest before Bosnian Begovic pounced on the ball in his own 6 yard box.
American international Cameron, who has impressed since his summer move from the MLS, advanced down the right hand side and played a neat one-two with Peter Crouch, which in turn gave Cameron space to drill a wicked cross into the box, which found Michael Kightly who struck a header at goal which forced Czech Republican Petr Cech into a good reflex save before Gary Cahill hurriedly cleared the ball.
Another form of ‘cheating` from the European Champions as they looked to try and pierce a very strong and organised Stoke defence, as Brazilian Oscar played a clever one-two with Eden Hazard, and as he advanced into the box and was tackled by Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross, the attacking midfielder threw himself to floor in an act which could have won him the statue he shares a name with. This time referee Oliver blew up and booked the Chelsea player for simulation.
Oscar nearly went from villain to hero though as he found space on the edge of the area and after a clever turn he smashed the ball goal wards only for Begovic to once again be more than a match for it.
Both teams sense they could go out and grab all 3 points. Both managers made positive changes with Stoke bring on Michael Owen for Charlie Adam, whilst Victor Moses entered the fray for the unusually quiet Eden Hazard.
The latter of the two substitutes nearly made an instant impact as he picked up the ball and drove from the halfway line and found Oscar out, who cut inside and hit a fierce effort which initially had Begovic wrong footed but the Stoke stopper superbly managed to get a strong hand to the effort.
Stoke continued to push for a winner and made their final substitutes as Kightly and Crouch left the field for Matthew Etherington and Kenwyne Jones.
The three Stoke substitutes nearly broke the deadlock after good combination between their selves. The ever impressive Cameron surged forward and connected with Michael Owen, before receiving the ball back and putting up a deep cross towards the far post where Kenwyne Jones knocked the ball down for fellow sub Matthew Etherington who smashed the ball goal wards from 8 yards, only to see his effort dragged wide.
With Stoke in the driving seat Roberto Di Matteo decided to throw on senior midfielder Frank Lampard for Jon Obi Mikel, and it wasn`t long until the midfielder helped the league leaders to grab the decisive goal of the game.
With only 5 minutes remaining Ashley Cole broke the deadlock after some smart play from Juan Mata.
Stoke seemed to still have belief that they could go and grab an equaliser in the dying embers of the game. Jon Walters found space on the right wing and tried to surge forward in search of the equaliser but David Luiz well and truly stopped the Irishman`s progression as he flew into a rash tackle just inside Stoke`s half with two feet. After the initial shock of the challenge, Walters got to his feet, and his frustration and disgust of the Brazilian`s defending was visible to see.
Walters` tempers could have spilt over even more as to the shock and dismay of Stoke`s playing and coaching staff, Luiz managed to get away with only a yellow card. Many people couldn`t see that being anything other than a red card if that was a tackle made by a player in red and white stripes.
Tony Pulis: ‘It’s a dreadful challenge.
‘You expect a referee of Premier League quality to deal with it.
‘It is a very, very bad challenge.
‘I just think we should highlight these situations more so that referees understand the people that do it,’ Pulis added.
‘Simulation is a real bugbear for me, I think it puts enormous pressure on referees when you come to the bigger clubs and players are falling over. You will see Ivanovic’s fall in the first half and the lad Oscar, who is a great player, doing it as well.’
Roberto Di Matteo: ‘It is a strong tackle, a strong tackle
‘Fortunately it didn’t catch him 100% but the referee made the decision and we accept that.
‘Oscar’s is a penalty,’ Di Matteo said.
‘I don’t think he should have been booked at all. There was contact.
‘Now if the referee doesn’t think there was enough contact then fine, we accept it. But I don’t think it was a dive at all, so I don’t think he can complain too much.’
“We were very unlucky at the Bridge and fought very gallantly at the home of the European Champions.
“We could and maybe should have taken all three points as we had numerous chances throughout the game, but I can`t knock any of the boys or the manager.
“With a lack of win again at the Bridge, the Potters still haven`t taken a point away at any of the current Champions League sides and also strectches Stoke`s failure to win to eleven Premier League games.
“With this result, next weekend`s home fixture against Swansea has turned into a must win after only four draws so far this season and some tough away fixtures at Anfield and Old Trafford.”