If you were to place a bet on the results of a match between Stoke City and Chelsea this season, you’d do much worse than to bet on the result being a draw. And you wouldn’t be wrong. On Saturday afternoon at Stamford Bridge, the two teams did just that, playing to a 1-1 draw. Goals from Bertrand Traore and Mame Biram Diouf provided the 1-1 scoreline, and neither side will really be too unhappy with the point.
As was expected after playing Norwich midweek, Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink rang in the changes ahead of the visit of Paris Saint-Germain for the home leg of their Champions League tie. Diego Costa was rested completely and Bertrand Traore was granted a second consecutive Premier League start, this time as the lead striker. Cesc Fabregas was also rested and given a place on the bench with the duo of John Obi Mikel and Nemanja Matic preferred.
Despite the changes, the Blues were the ones that started the first half the brighter side. Just four minutes in, Traore had a golden opportunity to open the scoring when Cesar Azpilicueta collected a cross-field ball from Branislav Ivanovic and found the youngster in the penalty area. But Traore failed to make contact with the ball and the chance was gone.
Despite the opening moments, it was Stoke that settled in first and Ibrahim Afellay and Xherdan Shaqiri began to show their influence.
Afellay had the first sight of goal for Stoke, firing a shot from 20 yards that forced a good save from Thibault Courtois. Afellay then set up Stoke’s first real chance of the match off of a counter. Diouf initiated the move, freeing Afellay down the Chelsea right. Afellay’s cross found Diouf free in the area, but Diouf failed to control his volley properly and fired over the bar.
Diouf’s second chance of the match came this time from a cross from Shaqiri. This time, it was Afellay’s pass that found Shaqiri free behind the Chelsea defence. Shaqiri’s cross found Diouf unmarked on the far post on the edge of the 6-yard box, but once again Diouf wasted the chance by firing wide.
Stoke would be punished for that profligacy by Traore. After his earlier miss, he atoned for his mistake when he collected the ball at the edge of the Stoke penalty area, skipped past a couple of challenges, and fired a shot from 18 yards inside the far post to hand the Blues the lead.
Stoke resumed the action in the second half with good intent. Marko Arnautovic started to grow in influence, finally getting a sight of goal just minutes after the restart when he skipped inside Azpilicueta and fired a dipping shot that forced a good save from Courtois.
Minutes later, Arnautovic once again rolled a challenge from Azpilicueta to free himself for a shot that was blocked by Gary Cahill.
Stoke could have gone ahead on the hour mark when Shaqiri collected the ball on the edge of the penalty area and shimmied his way across the box to find a shot that was tipped wide by Courtois.
Chelsea were then denied a penalty shout on 72 minutes when Marc Muniesa’s mistimed block sent Oscar sprawling to the turf, but referee Mark Clattenburg was unmoved and waved off the claims.
Oscar again courted controversy moments later when Erik Pieters, who had already been booked, blocked off Oscar late, but Clattenburg elected to not show a second yellow and only warned Pieters.
Though the Blues may feel aggrieved by those decisions in the build up to the equaliser, the equalising goal was a bit of redemption for one Mame Diouf.
After missing those two big chances in the first half, he was on hand in the area when Courtois punched Shaqiri’s cross directly in Diouf’s path, and the Stoke striker didn’t miss his header this time, and Stoke had the goal that they probably deserved on the balance of play