Not quite the start that we would have wanted and was largely due to an inspirational performance from goalkeeper Asmir Begovic who kept the Potters in it with some fantastic saves thwarting our three pronged attack especially in the second half.
Fernando Torres started, having suffered concussion midweek after playing for Spain, Andre Villas-Boas felt that he was still capable of giving the hosts a torrid time. Ryan Shawcross was determined for that not to be the case but found himself needlessly lunging in on the Chelsea striker, picking up a caution early in the match.
The Potters made a strong start roared on by their excitable fans, but we forced the first save from Jose Bosingwa. He bombed forward and unleashed a cross-come-shot which had Asmir Begovic scrambling to his near post to put the ball behind for a corner, which unfortunately came to nothing.
Torres who looked lively in the opening period was next to try his luck but he dragged his 20 yard shot wide of the target.
Stoke City bombarded our defence with an assault of long throws and high balls into the box typifying their sometimes unattractive but effective style of play, however the opening 30 minutes elapsed without either side breaking the deadlock.
Ramires sought to change that with a fine run that deserved better than the final outcome allowed. He drove at the Stoke defence finding a rare chink in the Potters rearguard, before squaring the ball across goal but no-one was there to take advantage of the chance.
Stoke were next to threaten and had appeals for a penalty waved away by Mark Halsey as Jonathan Walters looked to bring the ball down in the box, but it appeared to hit Blues defender Terry on the right shoulder before he cleared the danger.
Delap then floated a ball to the back post as the hosts piled on the pressure but Alex nodded it behind to safety – feeling the presence of Kenwyne Jones lurking behind him – which ensured that the score would remain goalless at half-time.
Play resumed and it was not long before Ashley Cole produced a kick to beat Jones to the ball with the type of imagination and flair that our performance had lacked a little until then.
But that was all about to change as we had two penalty claims in quick succession turned down.
Firstly Torres went down under the challenge of Woodgate and then Frank Lampard went surging into the box and was felled to the ground. Although there looked to be only slight contact Chelsea supporters were convinced the penalty should have been given, but it was waved away by Mike Halsey
Jon Obi Mikel nearly silenced the home fans with a stunning volley from 30 yards out but Begovic reacted brilliantly to tip the ball over the bar.
Malouda stung the palms of the Potter’s keeper moments later as we started to find our rhythm.
The home side responded well and another arrowed throw-in from Delap caused panic and confusion in the box with Cech caught underneath the ball under pressure, but the ball would not fall kindly for Walters and we survived.
Nicolas Anelka was brought on for Malouda midway through the second half as Andre Villas-Boas sought more attacking impetus upfront and the Frenchman nearly provided the opener with an exquisite chip from the angle of the box but Begovic tipped it onto the bar.
Torres then produced a great cross to pick out Kalou but the Ivorian could only direct his header straight at the goalkeeper signalling the end of his day as he was replaced by Didier Drogba.
Drogba’s addition meant we continued to pile on the pressure but the Potters defence stood firm and held on to the final whistle.
With Torres announced as man of the match and looking as though he is heading in the right direction, onto our next game, a home fixture against West Brom.
Gill Reeves – CSG Disabled Rep
- 01 Begovic
- 04 Huth
- 17 Shawcross – yellow card
- 39 Woodgate
- 06 Whelan
- 12 Wilson – yellow card
- 16 Pennant
- 24 Delap (Pugh 71)
- 26 Etherington (Whitehead 62)
- 09 Jones (Shotton 86)
- 19 Walters
- 29 Sorensen,
- 05 Collins,
- 28 Wilkinson,
- 30 Shotton,
- 14 Pugh,
- 15 Diao,
- 18 Whitehead
- 01 Cech
- 03 A Cole – yellow card
- 17 Bosingwa
- 26 Terry
- 33 Alex
- 07 Ramires
- 08 Lampard – yellow card
- 12 Mikel
- 15 Malouda (Anelka 65)
- 09 Torres (Benayoun 89)
- 21 Kalou (Drogba 75)
- 40 Hilario,
- 02 Ivanovic,
- 19 Ferreira,
- 10 Benayoun,
- 20 McEachran,
- 11 Drogba,
- 39 Anelka