It’s all over and Stoke inflict a third successive defeat on Chelsea and seventh for the season in 12 games. It was probably harsh on the champions but that is the way it is going for them at the moment. Jose Mourinho was banned from the stadium but will be wondering if he is going to take charge of the club again after this latest loss.
Stoke move up to 12th on 16 points. Jose Mourinho may not have have been at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday but pressure continues to mount on the Chelsea boss after a third straight Premier League defeat. With the Portuguese coach serving a one-match stadium ban Marko Arnautovic, a player Mourinho once let go from Inter Milan citing a problem with his attitude, converted with an acrobatic effort early in the second half.
The start was somewhat inauspicious for Chelsea: within 20 seconds Cesar Azpilicueta had been robbed by Marko Arnautovic and Charlie Adam ended up sending in a cross which Xherdan Shaqiri met in spectacular fashion but directed over. If standards were allowed to slip this low just because the boss was away, you feared for Chelsea. And with Baba Rahman looking shaky at left back and Shaqiri’s 22nd minute free kick being frantically cleared by Kurt Zouma on 14 minutes, it was easy to imagine another bleak evening for the Premier League champions. Yet slowly, surely Chelsea worked their way back into the game.
Pedro was excellent but the principal revelation was Eden Hazard. The 2014-15 Player of the Year has been in hiding for much of this season, but yesterday that man emerged again. Dropped in midweek, anonymous against Liverpool, yesterday he sparkled in the first half.It was like watching a re-run of last season: the shimmies, the confidence on the ball, the directness of his runs and the desperate lunges to stop him, one of which earned a yellow card for Philipp Wollschied. He served notice of intent with a superb counter attack and pass to Willian on 15 minutes, though Ramires eventually shot wide.
Diego Costa, who had quickly made himself the enemy of the people with a sly back heel on Ryan Shawcross early on, almost connected with a Pedro cross on 16 minutes before Glen Johnson forced a fine save from Asmir Begovic shortly after. Ramires’ flick and volley was tipped over by Butland on 22 minutes and then Pedro and Hazard combined with delightful long range passes to set up Costa on 27 minutes, who once again was only just short of the ball as he slid it to attempt to convert.
Hostilities resumed in characteristic fashion: Shawcross kicked Costa; Costa fell; Costa appeared to tell Shawcross he smelt. It was that kind of game.Yet it ignited shortly after on 54 minutes when Glen Johnson sprung forward on the right. Once again it was Baba Rahman unable to cope as the full back got away and swung in his cross.
Walters and Zouma battled for the ball which bounced kindly for Arnautovic but still, his volley to finish was spectacular and clinical.Shawcross and Costa resumed their feud, the Stoke man thrusting a strong arm towards Costa’s face, which earned him a yellow card. Hazard turned one way, then the other, bewitching Stoke, before unleashing a shot from 20 yards which was just over. But Johnson, who was enjoying a fine game against his former club, then tricked Willian on 64 minutes and sent a curling shot just over.
And on 66 minutes, Arnautovic went close with is powerful header from a Shaqiri cross.Yet while Chelsea’s first half poise had gone, this was no capitulation. On 67 minutes a finely worked move from Hazard to Willian found Pedro on the edge of the box and his curling shot rebounded off the post.Rahman was freed from his misery on 70 minutes when Oscar and Fabregas came on, with Ramires reverting to right back and Azpilicueta moving across.
Yet time was slipping and Chelsea were heading for a seventh Premier League defeat of the season. In terms of goal threat, Costa was offering Chelsea very little but they had no option other than to persist with him. On the bench, Faria and Holland had used all their substitutes by the 75th minute, switching to a back three and front-loading the team with Cesc Fabregas, Oscar and Loic Remy.
Remy had the best chance, played in by Costa, beating Butland and jumping over the goalkeeper when he could have gone down. But he failed to double back for the shot and another game slipped away from Mourinho and his battered side. It was not a disastrous performance from Chelsea who are in great need of an attacking threat with Diego Costa’s form so poor. Yet that has been the case for some time now and they are still losing games, licking goals, creativity at the final third it’s zore, Most of players attitude on the pitch show lack of hunger. Mourinho, who knows maybe he will be at the bridge against Norwich City, only Roman Abramovich can say that.