Chelsea warmed up for their crucial Champions League tie in midweek with a 1-1 draw at home to Stoke. The game was a mixed bag for the Blues, with Bertrand Traore scoring a fantastic opener, and Guus Hiddink setting a league record for longest unbeaten start by a manager. Stoke could have ended that unbeaten run, as they pushed forwards and probably deserved more than just Mame Biram Diouf’s goal.
Hiddink started this game without Diego Costa, who had a minor injury. It’s nothing serious, it’s likely he was just rested ahead of the PSG and Everton games later this week. Traore replaced him up front, while Nemanja Matic came in for Cesc Fabregas in midfield. Aside from that, Hiddink went with the team that beat Norwich 2-1 in midweek.
Traore started well up front, working hard in a game that seemed to mean very little. While Stoke are hoping to make the Europa League, this game was nothing compared to what was coming for the Blues in the next week. It was a hard one for fans to get excited about, they all seemed to be focusing on the tie with PSG on Wednesday. It’s hard to blame them for it, the league has lost its shine after the awful start made by the Blues.
That fact that Hiddink is using these games to give a youngster a chance in the form of Traore is great, especially when he’s picked ahead of January signing Alexandre Pato. You’d not be blamed for forgetting that the Brazilian was a member of the Blues squad. Traore has taken his chance in the team brilliantly, and Saturday was no exception.
When he picked the ball up with five minutes to go until half time, he showed no fear. He took a touch, moved himself into a position to strike, and hit a left footed thunderbolt into the net. It might be the best goal scored at Stamford Bridge this season, and it helped announce the arrival of a young forward who can hopefully kick on where many strikers have failed.
The energy created by that goal had apparently evaporated by the time the Blues came out for the second half, and Stoke took control of the game. They dominated most of the second half without scoring, and it looked like the Blues would hold on to record a fourth consecutive league win.
With just five minutes left to play, however, Stoke got level. Mame Biram Diouf was first onto a Thibaut Courtois punch, and he was presented with the perfect chance to score for the first time since September. He headed home, giving Stoke the point that their second half display deserved. They came close to taking all three, with Courtois saving in injury time from Bojan.
The Blues will need to be a lot more focused on Wednesday, as they look to overturn a 2-1 defeat against PSG. They’ll want to do it without going to extra time, with a cup quarter final against Everton to come on Saturday.
LCN Man of the Match: Bertrand Traore