Chelsea stole a late 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge after Stoke had looked set for a memorable victory.
Late goals from Belletti and Lampard cancel out Delap's openerChelsea stole a dramatic 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge after Stoke City had looked on course for a memorable Premier League success. The Blues headed into Saturday's encounter off the back of their top-flight humbling at Manchester United, and their title hopes seemed set for yet another blow. Scolari's charges dominated possession throughout the game but struggled to create clear-cut chances, as the home fans' growing frustration became apparent. And, as the Potters gained confidence after the break, Delap strode forward to latch onto new signing James Beattie's through ball and lift over goalkeeper Petr Cech. However, substitute Juliano Belletti restored parity on 88 minutes before Frank Lampard, making his 400th appearance for Chelsea, lashed home deep into injury-time to send the remaining home supporters beside themselves.
PressureThe victory keeps Chelsea in the title hunt and will take some of the heat off their Brazilian coach. Scolari's plight has not been helped by the loss of England midfielder Joe Cole with a knee injury for the rest of the season and John Terry's back problem in the pre-match warm-up meant he was unable to play. But Scolari's public feud with Ivorian striker Didier Drogba appears to have backfired on him as he would have provided just the kind of cutting edge lacked by the Blues. Since beating Sunderland 5-0 at the start of November, Chelsea had only managed home wins over CFR Cluj and West Brom. They should have taken the lead in the 23rd minute but once again their attacking frailties were exposed. It was perhaps unfortunate for Scolari that Lampard's free-kick landed at the feet of Salomon Kalou instead of top scorer Nicolas Anelka. The Ivorian failed to show the kind of coolness Anelka has been displaying this season and shot high over from just six yards. Florent Malouda then had a shot charged down, and then Anelka was unlucky not to take his tally for the season to 18 goals when his shot on the turn was superbly parried by Thomas Sorensen. Stoke suffered a blow in the 32nd minute when defender Danny Higginbotham went off injured to be replaced by Andy Griffin.
SecondsIn the 35th minute a superb run by Lampard helped set up Malouda on the left flank and his cross was destined for the head of Anelka until Sorensen's fingertips intervened. Scolari's pitchside animation was a joy to behold from outstretched arms aimed at the fourth official to the scratching of his head at misplaced passes. But despite his various gestures, his side were still lacking the cutting edge the axed Drogba would have certainly provided. That fact was underlined in the 41st minute when a corner from Lampard was met at the far post by Anelka - but his header was caught by Sorensen. Two minutes before the break the Dane pulled off another great save when he tipped a vicious left-foot shot from Ashley Cole over the crossbar - and seconds later he produced another stunning save to stop a volley from Lampard. Chelsea should have taken the lead in the 50th minute but an unmarked Ballack sent an eight-yard header the wrong side of the post following good work by Malouda. Stoke managed to engineer a chance for new signing Beattie in the 57th minute but the striker's attempted lob over Cech was just too high. It was a timely portent as Stoke stunned Chelsea with an opening goal in the 60th minute. Beattie superbly chested the ball down and fed the onrushing Delap, who ran into the penalty area and held off the challenge of Alex before calmly slotting the ball over the advancing Cech. It was a goal completely against the run of play - and another example of Chelsea's poor defending.
Great escapeScolari's reaction was to replace Malouda with Franco Di Santo but Stoke almost added a second goal when Cech flapped and missed a long throw from Delap. However, Matthew Etherington just could not turn quickly enough to try his luck at an open goal and Chelsea cleared the danger. Moments later Chelsea wasted another chance when Lampard shot wide from an acute angle after Anelka had put him clear. Then Cole, found superbly by Anelka, fired a left-foot shot inches wide of the far post with Sorensen beaten. Chelsea piled on the pressure with substitute Di Santo causing Stoke problems on the right flank - and with an embarrassing defeat on the cards, they produced the great escape. First a cross from Kalou was headed back into the six-yard box by Di Santo and Belletti, on for Jose Bosingwa, converted from close range. Then in stoppage-time, Lampard seized his chance to send a 20-yard shot beyond Sorensen for the winner.
|Chelsea||Team Statistics||Stoke City|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|12||Shots on Target||1|
|17||Shots off Target||3|