Oussama Assaidi scored a stunning last minute winner to give Stoke a dramatic 3-2 victory over Chelsea at the Britannia Stadium. The contest had appeared to be heading for a draw after two strikes by Andre Schurrle had sandwiched goals either side of half time from Peter Crouch and Stephen Ireland.
But in a match of fine goals the best was saved for last. The winger on loan from Liverpool cut in from the left flank and struck a memorable effort that curled away from Cech and into the top corner of the net for his first Premier League goal.
Chelsea had looked in total control of proceedings after Schurrle has put them in front inside 10 minutes. But manager Jose Mourinho will be aghast that his side let their grip slip and for the second match in succession conceded three times. Unlike against Sunderland, Chelsea’s attackers were unable to compensate for the team’s brittleness at the other end, despite the best efforts of Schurrle, who also struck the crossbar.
The result means Chelsea could now find themselves seven points off the Premier League summit by the end of the week, if leaders Arsenal beat Everton on Sunday. Stoke boss Mark Hughes will be hoping that the result kick-starts his reign and their season with a victory that takes them onto 17 points and into midtable.
It had all started very promisingly for Chelsea. Ramires had already shot over at the near post following a Schurrle cross before the summer signing from Bayer Leverkusen put Chelsea in front just nine minutes in. Receiving the ball 30 yards from goal, Schurrle proceeded to turn the hapless Ryan Shawcross inside then out before firing a crisp shot low into the net.
Chelsea continued to control possession, with Stoke pegged back. The only thing missing from the visitors’ display at that stage was more goals to show for their dominance. Ramires really should have been on the score-sheet but failed to make the most of a couple more opportunities that his lung-busting dynamism helped create.
Yet, there remained signs that Chelsea were far from secure at the back and just before half-time Stoke pulled level. On a quick break, Jonathan Walters’ cross so nearly connected with Stephen Ireland in the center, but from the resulting corner Chelsea were undone. Petr Cech came off his line but got nowhere near the ball and was powerless to stop Crouch controlling in the center of the box and then just getting enough on a shot to send it through the legs of Ramires on the line.
Things were to get even better for the hosts five minutes after the break. Walters’ challenge on Cesar Azpilicueta that left the Spanish full-back on the ground on halfway wasn’t punished and, with Chelsea left worryingly exposed, the Stoke stalwart squared for Ireland, who produced a fine curling finish into the corner of the net from 20 yards out.
Both goals had exposed an unusual brittleness from a Jose Mourinho side. But at least they initially displayed some more familiar resilience to bounce back just two minutes later. Again it was Schurrle who did the damage, this time meeting a half-cleared free-kick on the edge of the area with a wonderfully hit shot into the corner.
The Germany international almost made it a dream day less than five minutes later. His hat-trick was about to be acclaimed as his curling effort, this time on his right foot, appeared to be heading toward the top corner but instead was kept out by the crossbar.
Ireland soon missed a far better chance to add to his own scoring tally. Crouch had done all the hard work by controlling a cross into the box and laying the ball perfectly into the Irish midfielder’s pass, but with a far more straightforward opportunity than the one he scored from, he curled high and wide.
Chelsea were the side pushing harder for all three points in the closing minutes and once more that left Stoke with the space in which to punish them on the break. Still, that should not take anything away from the unstoppable effort that saw Assaidi announce himself to the Premier League almost 18 months after arriving from Heerenveen.