Gutsy Stoke fail to hold Blues
27th September 2008
Stoke couldn`t quite repeat their defensive resilience shown at Anfield a week ago as they went down 2-0 to premier league favourites Chelsea. Two goals either side of half time from Jose Bosingwa and Nicholas Anelka was enough for Scolari`s men after Stoke gave a decent account of themselves especially in the second half.
An injury to Rory Delap meant that Richard Cresswell started on the left wing. Ibrahima Sonko returning after injuring himself at Liverpool was only fit enough for the bench where he sat alongside Ricardo Fuller and the returning Amdy Faye from a 3 match ban.
As soon as the whistle went Chelsea stated their intent with passing the ball crisply and moving freely into space. This brought upon the first chance of the game as German Michael Ballack let fly from 25 yards which was palmed over the bar from Stoke keeper Sorensen. From the resulting corner Chelsea and England captain John Terry headed the ball goalwards which was grasped on the line from Sorensen as Florent Malouda looked set for a simple tap in.
Then Sorensen produced another fine save this time from Didier Drogba, Ballack fed the ball over the top of the defence to where Drogba had made his run and after expertly controlling the ball he looked to prod the ball beyond Sorensen, but the Danish keeper stuck out a right boot to divert the ball away.
Stoke`s defence looked stern to say the least with Abdoulaye Faye looking like a brilliant signing for the Potters and he and Leon Cort dealt with everything that entered the box.
Stoke even created a chance of their own after forcing a corner off Chelsea defender Alex, Sidibe rose to head Lawrence`s cross goalwards but alert between the sticks and wearing his bright orange strip was Petr Cech and he clung on at the near post.
But just as things looked good from a Stoke point of view Chelsea went and scored in the form of Jose Bosingwa. Some crisp Chelsea passing and a delightful chip from Lampard saw Bosingwa carry the ball into the box and from a narrow angle lashed a shot across Sorensen that found the corner. That was Bosingwa`s first Chelsea goal after signing in the summer from FC Porto and he sent the whole Chelsea bench including new coach Ray Wilkins wild.
At halftime boxing legend "Sugar" Ray Leonard received a Stoke shirt from Chief exec Tony Scholes and he tried to inspire the Stoke players along with 4 local athletes who appeared at this summer`s Olympic Games in Beijing.
Stoke almost fell further behind after the break as Frank Lampard had a drive that deflected wide. Chelsea really should have doubled their lead after Abdoulaye Faye was dispossessed on the edge of the box and Florent Malouda`s fierce shot was miraculously tipped onto the bar from Sorensen.
This seemed to spark Stoke into life as Fuller replaced Kitson and with the crowd behind him he won a corner after totally confusing Bosingwa with a delightful bit of skill that eventually forced Terry to clear. Stoke captain Andy Griffin earned a yellow card after he pushed Malouda who reacted by falling over feebly in an attempt to get him sent off. This happened because Malouda refused to retreat 10 yards back for a free kick that both players earned silly yellow cards.
A quick break away from Chelsea saw them reach the 6 yard box and with the goal gaping substitute Anelka blazed high and wide into the stand, an attempt that Johnny Wilkinson would have been proud of.
Stoke`s search for an equaliser continued after Fuller curled a shot high and wide form 25 yards and Griffin wasted a chance when he decided to shoot horribly when it appeared easier to cross the ball.
Just as the crowd had hope that Stoke would score, Chelsea delivered a hammer blow with 20 minutes remaining. Leon Cort failed to deal with a low cross and the ball fell to Anelka who fired it hard towards Sorensen who could only help it into the corner of the net. This more than made up for his earlier effort and justified Scolari`s decision to bring him on a half time.
Stoke wouldn`t lie down and Fuller should have been awarded a penalty but the ref stated he went down too easily. This was the last straw for Stoke as Chelsea eased through the last 10 minutes for a comfortable victory.
Next for Stoke is a tricky trip to Fratton Park to face Portsmouth. Stoke will be hoping that they play the same defence that have conceded a combined 10 goals in their last 2 games.
Stoke City: Sorensen, Griffin (c), Cort, Abdoulaye Faye, Higginbotham, Lawrence (Tonge 63), Diao, Olofinjana, Cresswell, Kitson (Fuller 52), Sidibe (Amdy Faye 81).
Subs not used: Simonsen, Whelan, Soares, Sonko.
Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Alex, Terry (c), Ashley Cole, Obi Mikel, Kalou (Anelka 45), Ballack (Ferreira 89), Lampard, Malouda, Drogba (Belletti 73). Subs not used: Hilario, Ivanovic, Sinclair, Bridge.