Stoke 1 – 1 Chelsea

first_imgChelsea’s slim title hopes all but vanished as Stoke City turned in a barnstorming display to earn a point.Jonathan Walters scored a wonderful solo opener, crashing the ball home after running from the halfway line.Didier Drogba deservedly headed the Blues level, meeting Nicolas Anelka’s teasing cross to power the ball in.Both sides twice hit the woodwork, Chelsea through two Drogba shots and Stoke through Marc Wilson and Robert Huth but neither could force a winner.It was Stoke who did most of the pressing after the interval and they will feel aggrieved their dominance did not produce three points and a first Premier League win over the Londoners.The pace and trickery of wing duo Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant was the main threat but the strength of Kenwyne Jones, who led the line brilliantly, laid the platform for the hosts. Stoke will point to at least five excellent openings in the second period, with Wilson’s rasping free-kick and Huth’s towering header, which produced a stunning reflex save from Petr Cech, the closest they came.But substitute Ricardo Fuller also headed agonisingly wide and Penannt had a decent low effort well saved by the Blues keeper.On another day, Chelsea would have been happy with a well-earned point from a pulsating tussle.But Manchester United’s breathtaking comeback win over West Ham in the lunchtime kick-off at Upton Park means the Blues are now 11 points off the pace with only one game in hand and time running out.Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti would have been confident at the interval having seen his side dominate despite the shock of going behind on eight minutes when Walters profited from some hesitant defending by David Luiz to score a wonderful individual effort. The striker cleverly gained possession on the halfway line, raced towards goal, cut inside Michael Essien and crashed the ball low past Cech.Chelsea refused to panic and dominated possession for the rest of the half.Ashley Cole saw his header well saved by Asmir Begovic and Florent Malouda’s well-struck half-volley fizzed wide.Frank Lampard also saw a brilliantly controlled 30-yard volley kept out by Begovic and Drogba blazed wildly over on the volley.The equaliser seemed inevitable and came courtesy of a majestic Drogba header from Anelka’s inviting cross on 33 minutes. Chelsea continued to look the more likely at the end of the half and in the early stages of the second half as the lively Anelka shot wide from 20 yards and Lampard tried his luck from distance.Drogba also clipped the post with a strike across goal but Stoke had a 15-minute spell where Wilson and Huth both rattled the bar and the visitors struggled to get out of their half.Jones fired over after a typical powerful run and the burly frontman headed fractionally wide from a bullet-like Rory Delap throw-in.Chelsea rallied in the closing stages, sensing their title hopes were slipping away.Substitute Fernando Torres almost made an instant impact but his shot was deflected and Drogba rattled the bar following a cute turn. But neither team could force the win.Source: BBClast_img

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