STOKE CITY FC 1 CHELSEA 1
Chelsea are not the team they were,but they are still very very good.Loaded with skilful,clever players,they came to us on the back of a good run of form.
Stoke took the lead after 8 minutes or so....a solo effort by the ever improving and hugely influential Jon Walters.He picked up the ball on the left,headed down the touchline leaving Ruiz trailing.It looked as though Essien would get to him just inside the penalty area,but Walters wrong footed him by cutting inside.His thumping finish beat Cech at his near post,to signal an outbreak of delirium in the Stokie crowd.
Thereafter for much of the remainder of the half Stoke were penned back by the visitors.Chelsea probed but could find no way through the determined Stoke rearguard,until Anelka,in centre midfield,clipped a ball into our box.Drogba stole a yard on Danny Higginbotham,sufficient space to allow him to place an imperious header past the helpless Begovic.
What was already an entertaining match,became a thriller in the second half.Stoke made a shed load of chances but simply could not finish them off.Wilson's freekick was a goal all the way until Cech tipped it onto the bar.From the corner the keeper performed miracles scooping Huth's powerful point blank header onto the bar,and away to safety.At the death,seconds from the end of the 6 minutes of added time with the full goal at his mercy Ricardo Fuller contrived to head Etherington's astute cross beyond the far post.Had he netted that,just imagine the 'mentals' !
Chelsea had their chances too.Drogba in particular was dangerous striking the base of the Stoke post with a cross shot, and crashing a left foot shot against the bar.
Chelsea fielded a very strong first pick team as they searched for the 3 points to keep them in the title race.What struck me was that,particularly in the second half,was that they were unable to play within themselves (with a view to their upcoming European match),but simply had all on to keep out a very determined Stoke outfit.
A draw was on balance a fair result,but if either team deserved to take all the spoils then it would have to be Stoke.
So we edge a point closer to safety,a point many would concede - before the match - would be a bonus.What we have proved is that ,certainly at home we can live with the big spenders.Stoke team yesterday,say £50m,Chelsea striker Torres on the bench £50m.......and not very effective when he came on either! Get the distinct impression he does not like The Potteries!
A full house at The Brit,a magnificent atmosphere and support from beginning to end,and,well,some of the chants were superbly timed , priceless, and certainly contributed to ruffling the visitors feathers.