The crowd at Stamford Bridge went through a raft of emotions today and some even left the stadium before Ashley Cole poked the ball past Asim Begovic into the Stoke City net. Chelsea ran out eventual winners but only just. It was the solitary goal that separated the two sides and on balance of play, Chelsea would count themselves lucky to have got away with three points from this game. A game against the likes of Stoke can do that to even the most cultured sides in the Premier League, we know that.
For this game, Di Matteo rested both Terry and Lampard and unleashed Oscar, Mata and Hazard as the front three players behind Torres. Ramires and Mikel were to provide support at the base of the midfield. Gary Cahill replaced Terry at the back and Ivanovic kept his place at right back. Chelsea looked in good shape as they began the game at a brisk pace. There was a lot of neat ball play but no end product to show for. Stoke came close to scoring in the first half, but the first half ended goal less. Stoke caused Chelsea defence numerous problems throughout the second half and despite some neat play by Oscar and Co., Chelsea were unable to beat the brilliantly organised Stoke side. It was just before full-time that Mata received the ball and a cute backheel led onto the brilliant Cole, who followed his run and coolly poked the ball home.
With club owner Roman Abramovich in attendance at the Bridge, Di Matteo would have liked to win and a win he got in the end. But for the owner and fans alike, one question looms large. Are Chelsea in dire need of a striker who can score goals or at least keep the opposition busy? Torres applied himself for the large part and in his defence, not many balls were played to him in open spaces. Matters were not helped for him by a well drilled Stoke defence that did not concede an inch. The blame, if any, must be taken by Di Matteo. At times, Chelsea looked absolutely flat and played with the nervousness of a child facing an exam for the first time. This is certainly not the temperament you expect from a team full of international footballers and multiple trophy winners.
Cole ensured Chelsea got out of jail today but doubts about Chelsea's performances remain. Although they sit pretty at the top of the Premier League, they have shown enough chinks in their armour for teams to exploit and exploit much to Di Matteo and Chelsea's detriment.