Chelsea suffered another defeat in this disappointing season as they lost 1-0 at Stoke on Saturday. The Blues made the trip without Jose Mourinho, who was serving a one game touch-line ban. Despite missing their manager, there was hope that the squad could build on their late win over Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday, but Marko Arnautovic’s second half effort saw Stoke take the three points.
The suspended Mourinho named a side which was pretty close to the one that won on Wednesday night. The back five from the game against Dynamo kept their places, as did Ramires and Nemanja Matic in midfield. Willian started, with Eden Hazard and Pedro coming in for Oscar and Cesc Fabregas in attacking midfield. While he couldn’t make it to the stadium, the manager certainly made his presence felt in his team selection.
The game was fairly even in the opening 45 minutes, as the champions held their own against a rejuvenated Stoke side. While the Potters have struggled at home this term, there was little sign of those problems in this game. Mark Hughes’ team certainly weren’t fearful, they appeared to expect to correct their poor run with a win in this one.
But Chelsea were doing well to hold out against that intent, right until the 53rd minute. The home side managed to expose the Blues’ back four, and they were able to carve out a chance at goal. That opportunity fell to Arnautovic, and he managed to acrobatically send a low strike past his former teammate Asmir Begovic. The hesitation from the experienced defenders isn’t something that Mourinho would have enjoyed, wherever he was watching the action.
After the goal, the away side took over the game, pushing to find an equaliser. Stoke keeper Jack Butland was once again in great form, preventing the champions from getting back on level terms. The game actually felt a lot like the League Cup meeting a few weeks ago, the only difference being that the Blues couldn’t find a last gasp equaliser to salvage a draw.
In the end, Mark Hughes celebrated a win over his former club, while Mourinho’s backroom staff couldn’t arrest the slide. After a seventh defeat in 12 league games, the last thing the team needed was another Diego Costa media storm. Many thought the worst after hearing the news that the abrasive forward had allegedly assaulted a steward, right up until they saw the video. A small push from the Spaniard led to the assault claim, which was quickly cleared up. If that steward seriously thought that little shove was dangerous, then we’d suggest staying clear of Oxford Street for the next month or so.
With another international break upon us, fans can relax without the worry of a game next weekend. When the Premier League returns in two weeks’ time, Mourinho returns with it, taking his place on the touchline against Norwich at the Bridge.
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