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Match Review: Chelsea vs. Stoke City #CHESTK

Match Review: Chelsea vs. Stoke City #CHESTK

Conte’s 13th.

Stamford Bridge | December 31st 2016

“Leaky: crisis as Chelsea concede twice as much in one day as in the last 3 months.”

Chelsea made it 13 in a row over the weekend at Stamford Bridge over a somewhat persistent Stoke City side to equal a premier league record previously set by Number 4. As previously eluded, Stoke City made arduous work of it, though it was more a pebble in the shoe than a defiant stump. 

With Pedro suspended, and Costa all cleansed and forgiven of yellow cards, the frontal attacking unit picked itself with Hazard and Willian on either side of Diego Costa. All else remained as usual except Kante displacing Matic and not Fabregas from holding midfield, Conte perhaps keeping one eye on Tottenham as Matic was one yellow card away from suspension. 

Stoke City on the other hand made two changes from the side that got mauled 4-1 by Liverpool last week with Shaqiri and Affelay coming in for Imbula and Bojan. Stoke City lined up with 4-3-3 but in reality played a 3-5-2 with Diouf and Pieters directly countering the threat of Alonso and Moses for Chelsea respectively. 

First half

Stoke had the unfortunate record of conceding 4 goals on 8 occasions in 2016 but as the game began it looked to be a rather conservative affair with Stoke defending resolutely do deny Chelsea any penetrative play while using the man mountain of Peter Crouch to hold up play in Chelsea’s half of the field. It was a smart approach and one that worked well for most of the game as Stoke and Chelsea were even for possession and chances created. Even for the types of chances created as well at least for the first half hour when all Chelsea’s chances came from set pieces and long balls over the top.

However of Lemons, Chelsea made Lemonade and about the 30th minute David Luiz sprayed and incredible pass from defence to the path of Diego Costa who was immaculate in his first touch to bring the ball under control. He went on to beat Ryan Shawcross but was quickly thwarted by an alert Lee Grant who dived forward from goal to beat the ball away from the Chelsea striker. His clearance fell for Hazard in a promising position and with a bit more composure the Belgian might have put it away but nevertheless his shot was on target and needed yet another sharp and athletic save from Lee Grant to send the ball over the bar. Chelsea scored from the resulting corner from Fabregas as Cahill who had the run on Stoke’s defence, leapt majestically to nod the ball into an inviting net, his second headed attempt of the game but Lee Grant had no chance this time. Chelsea slowed the pace down for the rest of the half and were effectively in control at the break.

Second Half

Stoke City without a doubt would have come into the second half looking to strike right back and they did exactly that. Within the first minute of the second half Stoke City equalized through Martins Indi in the most Stoke City way possible (although in retrospect it should have been flagged for offside). Charlie Adam, of course, played a perfect free kick into Chelsea’s box which met the head of Peter Crouch, of course, who knocked it down for Martins Indi to finish into an empty net after Thibaut Courtois had been drawn out in attempting to meet the initial ball. 

Chelsea had to step up again to restore their lead and they did. After several minutes of probing and beating on Stoke’s defence, Moses who had an improved second half performance was isolated with Pieters and making light work of his attentions, found Hazard in the box who touched the ball for Willian. The Brazilian rifled shot hit the deck and spun furiously away from the outstretched Lee Grant and into the net. Chelsea 2, Stoke City 1.

Stoke City on Saturday became the first team to put two past Chelsea since this winning streak began in September which was impressive in it’s own right. Charlie Adam played the Quater Back to find Peter Crouch, who touched the ball down expertly effectively putting the defence on the back foot. It was a move Fabregas and Costa would be proud of. The 35 year old league veteran released the ball to Bojan who played it wide to the unmarked Diouf, Diouf then played the ball across Chelsea’s box low and hard and it was met by Peter Crouch who tapped in easily into the net. Peter Crouch is now only 3 goals away from a 100 premier league goals. For an interesting bit of trivia, Peter Crouch started his career as a ball boy at Chelsea; perhaps his premier league success was inevitable after all. 

At this point one wondered if this would really be the fumble before the big game the guys at London Is Blue pod warned us about, but no sooner had I wondered than would Chelsea regain the league. Barely seconds of game play after Stoke’s equalizer, Cahill who had harassed Bojan all the way back to his defence, combined with Fabregas who had just won the ball and when the return pass from Cahill came, he released Willian through on goal. Chelsea’s attacker made no mistake, rifling his shot into the roof of Lee Grant’s goal and leaving the goalkeeper without a chance. 

Stoke pushed forward again to find another goal but that left them exposed to the counter-attacking prowess of Chelsea. Willian collected the ball from a defensive position and pumped his accelerators forward, he then found Hazard on the opposite flank and the little defence Stoke City had were completely stretched. The hole in the middle of that defence allowed Costa to end-to-end sprint towards goal to go unchecked and Hazard played the ball into his path only for Costa’s shot to go awry of goal.

Moments later however, in a move that typified the defining brilliance of Diego Costa, Chelsea sealed the game by scoring a fourth goal. From a seemingly innocuous throw in, Charlie Adam headed the ball up into the air, Costa as usual was the first to sniff the danger and immediately charged down on Martins Indi out muscling the defender and beating him to the ball. As soon as he got possession of the ball, he turned and smashed it home into the top far right so fast and so furiously that Lee Grant could only react once the ball was passed him. All doubt was erased at that point and the result was signed, sealed and delivered. Chelsea 4 - 2 Stoke City.

Final thoughts

The run currently stands at 13 in a row, 34 goals scored and 4 conceded. 

In a way this game might have been practice for how a match against Liverpool might play out. Chelsea had to reclaim the lead twice and return fire for fire. What was impressive about this game was that Chelsea is also quite adept at the long ball, set piece strategy themselves. With passers like David Luiz in defence and Fabregas in midfield and a Striker like Diego Costa with willing runners like Willian and Hazard around him, Chelsea are quite alright playing long balls if their more traditional build from the back game is disrupted. Tottenham is up next and Maurico Pottchettino has joined the increasing shenanigans and mind games from rival managers doing their very best to stop Chelsea’s momentum. The Spurs manager claims the whole league will support them against Chelsea and that beating Chelsea will be “good for the Premier League”. Putting pressure on officials? FA? Probably not.

Another piece of interesting and hopefully futile mind games has come from the suddenly mouthful Jurgen Klopp who suggested Chelsea should be annoyed to have a team just 6 points behind them after winning 13 games in a row. Conte on the other hand has yet to dabble in this great game of minds, it would be a waste of time. Antonio Conte will no doubt be reiterating his own philosophies of hard work and concentration to the team as they prepare to face Tottenham away. Get connected with the Pod as anticipation builds up, Tottenham will be a massive game and yes many-a-manager will love to see us stumble but ruining the dreams of rivals is the Chelsea way so I say...


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