Home » EPL, Latest » Match Report: Stoke 1 Chelsea 1

Chelsea must have thought it was over even before they kicked off. By the time they trudged from the field, they will have known it. The Premier League title will not be returning to Stamford Bridge this season.

As Carlo Ancelotti’s players warmed up in front of their own fans in the South Stand, they were forced to endure every second of Manchester United’s comeback at Upton Park, beamed onto the big screen for their dubious enjoyment.

It would take a cynical mind to imagine Stoke City decided to air the game in an attempt to gain a psychological advantage against opponents who have built substantial momentum in recent weeks. No doubt the intention was simply to entertain supporters basking in the spring sunshine. No doubt.

But as Chelsea watched the league leaders disappear into the sunset, Wayne Rooney rampaging through West Ham’s gossamer defence to explode any lingering hopes of retaining their title, and it provided Tony Pulis’s side with a small fillip, then so be it.

Deliberate or not, it worked. Chelsea started in dispirited fashion, lacklustre in possession and non-committal in the tackle. At the Britannia, such behaviour is an invitation to mayhem. Their hosts might have gone ahead when Robert Huth headed over from a Jermaine Pennant corner; they did so a moment later, as Jonathan Walters, bustling and rugged, robbed David Luiz, marauded into the box, cut inside Michael Essien and blasted home.

It was that sort of afternoon for the Brazilian. He might have become a cult hero in his two months in England, but Stoke was always likely to be a culture shock. He will not look forward to seeing Kenwyne Jones again, that much is certain. Luiz is not a small man. The Trinidadian, at times, treated him like a rag doll.

There is no shortage of muscle among Ancelotti’s players, though. Chelsea do not allow themselves to be bullied. They gave no quarter to their hosts, but found chances scarce.

Ashley Cole might have equalised immediately, his header tipped away by Thomas Sorensen, and Nicolas Anelka might have done better after the Dane spilled Frank Lampard’s speculative shot.

When the Frenchman clipped a cross on to Drogba’s head and the Ivorian converted, though, the Britannia nonetheless reacted with shocked disappointment, rather than a sense of resignation. Chelsea had enjoyed plenty of possession. They had shown scant knowledge of what to do with it.

Their memories soon lapsed. Stoke created by far the better chances of an energetic, tense second half, going close through Jermaine Pennant and hitting the bar twice in succession, firstly through Marc Wilson, then Robert Huth, both efforts were diverted by the slenderest of touches from Cech.

By that stage, Fernando Torres, dropped by Ancelotti, had replaced Anelka. Chelsea’s menace remained fleeting. Drogba had hit the post before the Spaniard’s introduction, but he and Britain’s most expensive player continue to look like strangers.

Instead, Torres and Drogba watched as Jones – who might have partnered the former at Anfield has Rafael Benitez had his way and Tom Hicks and George Gillett the fiunds – took centre stage, firing wide after spinning Luiz, heading past the post from a Rory Delap throw.

Drogba hit the bar once more, and Essien saw an effort flipped over, but Ancelotti’s team would not have deserved to snatch a winner.

Regardless, it would have simply served to extend the flicker of a futile hope. Perhaps it is better this way. Perhaps it is better to know it is over.

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