Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Sunday January 18 2009
17th January 2009
Just as it looked like it was going so well.... Just two minutes from the end of normal time, the Potters were, incredibly but justifiably, a goal ahead at Stamford Bridge. By the time the whistle blew we'd seen those vital three points reduced to none.
There's no doubt that most Stoke fans would have gone into the game at the start with faint dreams of a victory, but in reality hoping that we didn't get a thrashing as in the match at Old Trafford.
Tony Pulis gave new signing, James Beattie, his debut up front alongside Richard Cresswell, preferring to leave Dave Kitson on the bench and was able to start with the same back four who had held Liverpool to a draw seven days earlier.
Chelsea, whose boss had elevated Stoke to the dubious distinction of being 'the most dangerous team in the world' in interviews earlier in the week were given an early taster of what he meant after just a couple of minutes. Their well-publicised weakness in set-pieces was displayed in all it's glory when the home side failed to deal with the first Delap throw-in but Alex managed to knock it over the line for a corner.
Having said that, the majority of the game was a display of how Chelsea's dominance in midfield couldn't be converted into a result by their multi-million pound squad. Whilst Thomas Sorensen managed to keep the Potters in the game with some fine saves, this was a team effort in survival skills.
In the 60th minute the Potters saw their dogged resistance rewarded with a goal from Rory Delap. On the break, James Beattie made a well-timed pass to Delap who held off two defenders to chip the ball neatly over the advancing Cech. Delirium at the Stoke end was combined with despair in the Blue half - even a certain Russian owner couldn't bear to watch any more and left.
Earlier in the day. a local Potteries' bookie had been advertising to turn my £10 into £1,540 if Richard Cresswell was to score and Stoke were to win 1-0. Having refused to part with my cash on such a mad, crazy impulse, you can imagine the mixed feelings I was experiencing with ten minutes remaining knowing that if I had put my money on Delap scoring, rather than Cresswell, it probably would have increased my theoretical winnings even further.
Such are dreams made of, but it all ended in a nightmare. Scolari threw on Di Santo, Stoch and Belletti and it was the Brazilian international who found himself unmarked on the edge of the six yard box after a cross from Stoch and he headed home. All square, two minutes plus added-on time remaining and you knew it was going to be all hands to the pump, but it still took some luck for the home side as the ball bounced kindly off several players on the edge of the penalty area and Lambard powered home a shot that gave Sorensen no chance.
So eventual despair for the Potters as they looked like taking all three points after a spirited display. With no more matches now for ten days the squad are off to Dubai for some concerted training and team building. There's no need for any recriminations after this defeat but, oh, does it still hurt knowing that we can came so, so close?
Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa (Belletti 78), Carvalho, Alex, Ashley Cole, Lampard, Mikel (Stoch 82), Ballack, Malouda (Di Santo 60), Anelka, Kalou.
Subs not used: Cudicini, Ivanovic, Mancienne, Kakuta.
Stoke City: Sorensen, Wilkinson, Shawcross, Abdoulaye Faye, Higginbotham (Griffin 34), Delap, Whelan, Amdy Faye (Pugh 28), Etherington (Kitson 83), Beattie, Cresswell
Subs not used: Simonsen, Olofinjana, Lawrence, Sonko
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Date:Sunday January 18 2009
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