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Match Report: Chelsea 1-0 Stoke City (Stoke Fan's Perspective)

Sunday 11th March 2012
With the pre-match hype all about Roberto Di Matteo's first Premier League game in charge of Chelsea since Andre Villas-Boas was sacked last week, it was Stoke's Ricardo Fuller and Chelsea's Didier Drogba that played pivotal roles in the outcome of the match.

Fuller's stamp on Branislav Ivanovic after only a quarter of the game meant the Potters offered little in attack thereafter and hung on until Drogba struck in the closing stages to end their stubborn resistance.

With Peter Crouch and Glenn Whelan suffering from a bout of flu, Stoke boss Tony Pulis brought Kenwyne Jones and Salif Diao into his starting eleven. Matthew Etherington's absence gave Fuller his first start since playing in the defeat to Valencia at the Mestalla last month.

Chelsea asserted their dominance on the game early on by carving out chances from three corners with only four minutes on the clock. However, Stoke managed to hack clear and were fortunate moments later as Ryan Shawcross headed over his own bar with keeper Asmir Begovic stranded off his line.

Robert Huth had the Potters' first chance but his ambitious effort from 35 yards went well wide. Gary Cahill's 20-yard strike was then forced around the post for a corner by the impressive Begovic, who recently claimed back his starting position between the Stoke posts.

Salif Diao then picked up what has now become his mandatory yellow card shortly after for bringing down Ramires. Jon Walters and Jones had efforts blocked as Stoke tried to address their poor away record in recent years against teams in the top six.

After a previous altercation with Ivanovic and with his frustration boiling over at having to play on the left-wing, Fuller's act of petulance earned him a straight red from ref Andre Marriner and instantly put Stoke on the back foot.

Another Chelsea corner caused unexpected problems for Stoke as Cahill's header clipped the bar and went over, with John Terry claiming his side should have been awarded a penalty for shirt tugging.

Di Matteo's tactical decision to bring on Juan Mata shortly after Fuller's dismissal sparked more creativity into Chelsea's play as they went in search of an opener. And Ivanovic then became the second Chelsea player to clip the woodwork as his rasping drive at goal clipped the crossbar just before the interval.

Mata and Frank Lampard both had efforts saved after half-time, before Pulis brought on Wilson Palacios and Matthew Upson for the struggling Diao and Marc Wilson to try and sure up his defence.

Terry was the next player to strike at Begovic's goal but his effort went harmlessly wide with Stoke dropping ever deeper to hold on. Upson's challenge on Lampard just outside the box then presented Drogba with the opportunity to grab his 100th Premier League goal, but his effort was expertly turned away by Begovic. Drogba however gained revenge moments later.

After retaining possession and pulling Stoke from one side to the other, Mata picked out Drogba who rounded Begovic before slotting into the back of the net, with Stoke having legitimate claims for fouls in the lead-up to the goal turned down.

Substitute Cameron Jerome had Stoke's best chance in the closing stages when he broke away before unleashing a shot at goal which went a couple of yards wide.

Shortly after Mata rattled the woodwork as Chelsea saw out the game in comfortable fashion with Stoke City supporters left wondering what might have been had it not been for Ricardo Fuller's moment of madness.
Niall Cope

Total articles: 22

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