Chelsea have lost 1-0 to Stoke City in another frustrating afternoon in the Premiership.
The home side made the first in road into the opponent’s half seconds into te game, brought about by a mistake on the right from Azpilicueta that Shaqiri was unable to make the most of in the penalty box.
Chelsea responded with a passing move between the attacking quartet that led to an attempt from Hazard- the Belgian was unable to fashion a shot on target from a tight angle. Despite the wasted foray into the Stoke City box it was a good sign that the creative players were beginning to play in the way that brought such success last season.
The game hit an interval shortly before the tenth minute when Pedro sought to bring down a high ball and caught Pieters in the face as the Stoke defender tried to head the ball clear.
The Blues missed a great chance to take the play shortly after play resumed as they counter attacked from a Stoke free-kick that had been won by Shaqiri- the home side’s most dangerous player early on. Hazard collected the clearance from Baba and ran into the Stoke half and gave it to Willian, who in turn put in Ramires who couldn’t quite get his shot on target.
Former Stoke ‘keeper Asmir Begovic was forced into a very good save to his right when former Chelsea man Glen Johnson collected the ball in the middle from Shaqiri. Ramires then had another attempt on goal, this one on target, when he half volleyed the ball at goal and forced Butlan to tip the ball over the bar after 21 minutes as Chelsea showed more and more signs that their rotten recent form was behind them, following on from Wednesday’s improved performance against Dynamo Kiev.
Costa was inches from making contact with a superb ball from Hazard on the left on 26 minutes as they appeared to be getting closer to opening the scoring. Stoke themselves almost did so seconds later when Shaqiri tricked Baba and played a good ball into the box that Walters couldn’t direct towards the goal.
After that, Chelsea’s hold over the first half only strengthened. A series of corners led to nothing- Hazard had a shot from the edge of the box that was blocked, and Costa had shot well saved by Butland as the break drew nearer.
Stoke City began the second half the quicker and punished Chelsea for their wastefulness after just a few minutes- Arnautovic finishing well from a few yards out with the ball in the air. Chelsea’s shabby defending letting them down again after an impressive first half. They responded with shots fro outside the box form Matic- which forced a save- and Hazard- who didn’t.
Stoke City did well to pressure Chelsea into mistakes when the Blues had the ball around the box- denying them the space needed to make the final pass and find an equaliser. Pedro hit the post on 66 minutes with a curled shot from the edge of the box.
The attacking quartet continued to link up well as they did in the first half but couldn’t fashion clear cut chances despite their possession. The home side began to sit back deeper and deeper, exposing Chelsea’s narrow approach. When Hazard and Pedro were forced into the centre, which was often the case, they found themselves playing into a crowd of Stoke players. The introductions of Oscar and Fabregas were designed to give the team more thrust going forward and the inclusion of Remy another target for them to find as Costa tired.
The changes very nearly worked with ten minutes to go when Hazard received the ball from Fabregas after clever play in the box but saw his side foot shot deflected wide by Glen Johnson. They came even closer on 85 minutes when Remy was out though and was able to go round Butland but couldn’t turn the ball into the goal as he stumbled. Oscar couldn’t find a way past Butland in stoppage time and Chelsea were consigned to defeat once again.
There are positives to take from the performance if not the result, though things are clearly not completely right. One thinks and hopes that a genuine turnaround in results isn’t too far away.
STOKE CITY –Butland; Johnson, Shawcross, Wollscheid, Pieters; Adam, Whelan; Shaqiri (Diouf 80), Bojan (Cameron, 70), Arnautovic; Walters
Unused Substitutes: Haugaard, Wilson, Ireland, Afellay, Crouch, Diouf.
Manager: Mark Hughes
CHELSEA –Begovic; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Terry (c), Baba (Oscar 70); Ramires (Remy, 76), Matic; Willian, Hazard, Pedro (Fabregas, 70); Diego Costa
Unused Substitutes: Amelia, Cahill, Mikel, Kenedy,
Manager: José Mourinho
Referee: Anthony Taylor