Quality Premier class was the order of the day as Stoke City prevailed as a resilient team unlucky not to win against the reigning champions. An absolute cracker of a match that set alight the fiery passion of The Britannia Stadium and one thing is for sure; my voice box is burned out – again.
The result today means that Stoke sit on 38 points and has also chucked a big cold bucket of water on the Blues` chance of retaining the Premier League title, especially as leaders Manchester United won their game against West Ham Untied.
Tony Pulis decided to make no changes to the squad since the record making 4-0 thriller against Newcastle, however due to back-up ‘keeper Thomas Sorensen`s injury Carlo Nash filled the spot on the bench.
A positive start to the game from Stoke could have led to a goal within the first two minutes when a corner was earned. Jermaine Pennant stepped up to the flag to whip in a curler, Huth shook off his marker in the area to get up and get a head on the ball, but fired it over the bar.
Chelsea displayed their usual skill and quality on the ball and created an almost immediate response. Jose Bosingwa drove the ball forward from the right wing to zip in a threatening cross, but it merely flashed passed the face of goal.
Competitive play from both teams early on but it was Stoke who scored the first GOAL of the game, eight minutes in! Jon Walters takes the credit for a superb solo play that came from his determination and drive. The ball was dinked forward by Robert Huth from inside his own half and it appeared that David Luiz was going to take the possession. But Walters came flying at him stealing the ball away from his feet and unleashing a mighty run down the left wing. He cut inside in the area and blasted a rocket past Petr Cech. A sea of red and white screamed, cheered and bounced for delight.
Vulnerability showed though when Chelsea could have easily hit back and kicked Stoke in the teeth. Didier Drogba found the rather disliked Ashley Cole (understatement) who picked up the pace down to penetrate into the area. He pulled the trigger to shoot but it was saved by a flying Asmir Begovic who dived to his left to push it out for a corner. No damage done on this occasion.
Stoke seemed to back off a little as Chelsea started to dominate possession. Malouda let fire a long range effort but it was blasted over Begovic`s crossbar.
An edge of the seat moment for Stoke when Kenwyne Jones had a glorious opportunity to make it 2-0. Jones skipped around skipper John Terry and made a run into the area, but Terry was hot on his case. The pressure got to Jones and couldn`t shape himself for the shot and so the ball was cleared by Cech.
End to end action continued as it was Chelsea`s turn to add to the tally of shots. Frank Lampard volleyed the ball at goal but Begovic kept a cool head to push it out to Rory Delap who then cleared away from a fast approaching Anelka.
Chelsea were keeping up the pressure as Drogba volleyed high and wide from the edge of the box after receiving a cross from Anelka on the right flank.
Stoke`s defences were finally bypassed as the visitors scored a GOAL to equalise. Anelka again floated in the ball and Drogba managed to jump high and get a head on it to put it past Begovic and in the back of the net.
Slick, liquid play proved to be difficult for the Potters to bottle up but the first half drew to a close after Jones managed to unleash a shot that was deflected and heading for the top corner, but Cech caught it, just.
Stoke seemed to frustratingly back off for most of the duration of the first half so started the second with more willingness to push forward.
Etherington played in a cross that could have been such a major lift if the follow through from Pennant went in. Matty`s cross was a little long and behind both Walters and Fuller, but Jermaine was invading from the wide and let rip a shot, but Cech thought on his feed and made an excellent save with his legs.
Chelsea then had an opportunity when Drogba was on the end of an effort that skimmed wide of the post.
helsea was starting to get the jitters and so a swift change of legs were made to freshen things up a bit. So on came record signing Torres along with Kalou.
A foul on Etherington was given and so Marc Wilson stepped up for the free-kick 25 yards out. Glen Whelan slipped the ball to Wilson who cracked an almighty strike that beat Cech but cannoned fiercely off the crossbar.
Another smack against the woodwork caused as the whole stadium to gasp. Robert Huth rose to the ball from a corner, which was heading straight in had it not been for the fingertips of Cech, and so it the crossbar.
Stoke were pilling on the pressure as their confidence on the ball was sky high, just like the atmosphere around the ground as Stoke fans were roaring on the Potters.
Jones was so unlucky not score on two occasions as both efforts were only inches away from striking the net. He firstly beat Terry once again to shoot just past the upright from a awkward angle, and headed wide from a Delap long throw.
Chelsea hit the woodwork themselves when Drogba fired a shot on the turn, which forced Begovic to save from Essien on the follow up.
Ricardo Fuller was the tactical substitution who came on for Pennant, and almost proved to be the super-sub. He rose to get a head on an Etherington cross but it annoyingly flashed across the face of goal. SO CLOSE!!
Final whistle and what a match that was to watch! Great skill and tempo to the game and Stoke were indeed unlucky not to win the match. But a points a point and we will take that against a side that have are champions!
Begovic, 12 Wilson, 3 Higginbotham, 17 Shawcross, 4 Huth, 16 Pennant, 6 Whelan, 24 Delap, 26 Etherington, 19 Walters, 9 Jones.
Subs: 18 Whitehead (for Whelan,85), 10 Fuller (for Pennant,90), 5 Collins (for Higginbotham,90).
Not used: 27 Nash, 14 Pugh, 15 Diao, 28 Wilkinson.
Cech, 17 Bosingwa, 3 Cole, 4 Luiz, 26 Terry, 7 Ramires, 5 Essien, Lampard, 15 Malouda, 39 Anelka, 11 Drogba.
Subs: 9 Torres (for Anelka,61), 21 Kalou (for Ramires,61), 2 Ivanovic (for Bosingwa,81).
Not used: 22 Turnbull, 12 Mikel, 18 Zhirkov, 19 Ferreira.