Missing Mourinho’s Chelsea see misery continue at Stoke
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | November 7, 2015
Stoke City 1-0 Chelsea
- Mourinho serves stadium suspension
- First-half saves from Butland deny Blues
- Arnautovic nets eight minutes after interval
- Pedro hits post for Chelsea
- Butland brought down Blues sub Remy, but got back to his feet
- Potters avoid penalty and close on top half
Blues beaten in Britannia battle
Marko Arnautovic’s early second-half strike sent Stoke City level with Watford and Crystal Palace on the cusp of the top 10, and consigned Chelsea to a spot just two places and three points above the Premier League relegation zone.
Missing manager Jose Mourinho due to a ban prohibiting him from entering the Britannia Stadium, the Blues drew saves from in-form Potters goalie Jack Butland and hit the post through Pedro Rodriguez, so found their luck out once again.
A sense of deepening domestic crisis is certainly gripping defending Premier League champions Chelsea, who have averaged less than a point per game after a dozen matches and are now 7/2 chances with Coral for a top four finish. They had more possession and openings, but fell short at a savvy Stoke side that now combine defensive discipline with forward flair.
There is irony in Mourinho’s absence, complete with away fans wearing masks of his face, that a player he coached at Inter Milan and fell out with, in Arnautovic, came back to haunt his current club, with first-team coach Steve Holland nominally leading the staff.
Pedro avoids Pieters punishment
Potters manager Mark Hughes named the same XI that took a point off Newcastle United last time out, while the Blues made two changes from their midweek win over Dynamo Kiev. Cesc Fabregas and Oscar dropped to the bench, which meant starts for Eden Hazard and Pedro.
Chelsea lost possession almost immediately after kicking off, with Xherdan Shaqiri trying an audacious overhead effort. A lengthy stoppage led to a disrupted first-half with Pedro’s high boot bloodying Stoke left back Erik Pieters’ nose, though referee Anthony Taylor deemed this incident accidental.
Ramires snatched at effort inside the quarter hour as Chelsea broke through Abdul Baba Rahman, Hazard and Willian. Down the other end, former Blues player Glen Johnson drew a low one-handed stop from ex-Potters stopper Asmir Begovic following good work from Bojan Krkic.
More Butland brilliance
Jack Butland, who replaced the Bosnian as Stoke number one, produced a fine save to tip over Ramires’ long-range effort midway through the first-half when the ball broke to the Brazilian in space.
A goal-bound Hazard shot from a clever Chelsea corner-kick routine saw Jonathan Walters put in a block. Butland, meanwhile, had to be on hand again to save with his legs from Diego Costa when teed up by a one-two back-heel from fellow Spain international teammate Pedro.
The Potters took the lead less than 10 minutes after half-time through Austria international Arnautovic. He found himself unmarked at the back post where he bundled the ball in acrobatically following a sweeping move down Stoke’s right.
Bojan spotted Johnson on the overlap and he pulled back for Potters forward Walters, who signed a new contract at the Britannia before kick-off, though the Irishman couldn’t get the shot away himself. It instead fell for Arnautovic to deepen Blues woe.
Pedro rattled the base of Butland’s right-hand post with a quarter of the game to go; then the Chelsea coaching staff threw on Fabregas and Oscar for the final 20 minutes.
Hughes’ own substitution – Bojan off for defensive utility man Geoff Cameron – suggested Stoke were content to defend a one-goal lead.
Potters eke out win
Loic Remy, boasting an impressive four in four record against the Potters, also came on as the Blues chased an equaliser in vain. Penalty appeals when the French stumbled under Butland’s challenge as he rounded the keeper fell on dear ears.
Even Willian found his free-kick radar had gone haywire, after netting some spectacularly dead balls and decisively so in midweek, with a delivery that failed to get over the hosts’ wall.
Johnson’s deflection took a Hazard shot wide, while Walters miscued up the other end when given an opportunity to seal Stoke’s victory by sub Ibrahim Afellay. That didn’t matter, though, and the Potters are closing in on the top 10 (5/1 to finish there) after a stuttering start to the season.