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Chelsea 2-1 Stoke


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Chelsea F.C. 2 - 1 Stoke City

January 17 2009, English Premier League, Stamford Bridge, West London

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Frank Lampard scored a stoppage-time winner as Chelsea came from behind to beat Stoke.


The Blues had dominated for large parts of the game, but did not have the entire run of the mill at Stamford Bridge, with Stoke piling early pressure on Chelsea's shaky defence. However, the hosts were rampant in attack and penned the Midlands side into their own half for much of the first forty-five minutes, but failed to break down a resilient Stoke defence.

Michael Ballack wasted a good chance when his bullet header went the wrong side of the post, and Salomon Kalou had earlier spurned a glorious opportunity, and Chelsea were made to pay for their wayward finishing, as Rory Delap shot beyond Petr Cech after being fed by James Beattie.

But Chelsea responded, and the introduction of Juliano Belletti and Franco di Santo soon turned the tide. The two substitutes combined on 87 minutes, as di Santo flicked on Kalou's cross to allow Belletti to net the equaliser, before Lampard rifled home the winner from 20 yards as Chelsea look to get their season back on the right track.

On a day where Joe Cole was resigned to the sidelines for the rest of the season with a ruptured knee ligament, and captain John Terry was forced to withdraw from the warm-up prior to the match, stand-in skipper Lampard's winner - on his 400th appearance for the club - will certainly brighten the atmosphere around West London.

Following their win against Southend in mid-week, the Blues were in buoyant mood ahead of their clash against relegation-threatened Stoke. Having turned the Potters over 2-0 at the Britannia Stadium in September thanks to goals from Jose Bosingwa and Nicolas Anelka, Luiz Felipe Scolari's injury-hit side were confident they could re-kick start their season.

Despite having Michael Essien, Didier Drogba, as well as the aforementioned Terry and Joe Cole all absent, the Blues fielded a strong line-up that featured Alex da Costa maintaining his place in the side. Florent Malouda was welcomed back from injury, and started in a forward three that consisted of the Frenchman, his compatriot Anelka and Ivorian forward Kalou.

The Blues' recent defensive wobbles appeared to still be present in the first minute, as both the defence and the usually-reliable Petr Cech were put under intense early pressure. Alex did well to head behind a trademark long throw from Rory Delap, but the resulting corner saw Abdoulaye Faye clear the crossbar with his headed effort, after being left free by Chelsea's controversial zonal marking strategy.

Kalou, scorer of one and provider of a couple at Southend on Wednesday, looked to add some creative spark to Chelsea's attack, as he rounded Sorenson from Lampard's clever through ball. However, the Ivorian could not do anything, and the ball was cleared by the Stoke defenders as Chelsea looked to press on and find an early advantage.

Ballack fired straight at Sorenson with a free kick from a central position in somewhat wasteful fashion, and Kalou could only flick Lampard's drilled free kick from deep over the bar from inside the six yard box. It was a glorious opening for the young striker, but the ball was fired in with pace, making it a difficult chance, but a chance nonetheless for the hosts.

Kalou might have had a penalty moments later after apparently being tripped in the area, but referee Peter Walton waved away the muted Chelsea appeals. Nicolas Anelka fired towards goal after rolling his defender beautifully, but his shot across the target was at a decent height for the goalkeeper, who parried away at full stretch. Anelka would later again go close with a flicked header, but the Danish shot stopper collected thankfully at his near post.

Sorenson then pulled off a majestic save from Ashley Cole to deflect his effort over the bar. Malouda began the move and fed the ball to Cole, who unleashed a rocket from inside the area that took a nick off a Stoke defender on the way through. Sorenson threw a right hand in the air and palmed it away for a corner kick. A save from first a Lampard piledriver from 25 yards, followed by a fortunate spill around the post from another effort from the Chelsea number 8 meant the scoreline was level at the break.

Ballack spurned a great chance to go 1-0 up when he headed wide from a Malouda cross from just six yards out. A chance not too dissimilar to the goal he scored in Chelsea's 1-0 win over Reading last season, the German was angry at his own wastefulness, and the Blues would later be made to pay.

Beattie first fired a dangerous lobbed effort towards goal from 30 yards that cleared the crossbar by a matter of inches, before the debutant fed Delap after textbook forward play. Delap broke into the box and after Cech had gone done, calmly fired over the orange-jerseyed goalkeeper. Franco di Santo was soon introduced to the action, and would have a telling part in the tale.

Lampard fired wide on his left foot after Anelka and he had combined quite brilliantly, and it all seemed so likely that the ultimate of smash-and-grab wins in Premier League history would be occurring. By the time Juliano Belletti was brought on in the 77th minute, the Blues had registered 37 shots to Stoke's 1, and frustration had spread like wildfire around Stamford Bridge.

However, the Brazilian found the net with a goal that was simple-but-effective. Kalou floated a cross to the front post that di Santo did excellently to flick on, giving Belletti space to head home after being left unmarked at the far stick. The stadium erupted; its foundations rocking, but the Blues were not over-celebrating. The had one, they wanted two, and Lampard would soon provide.

Belletti hit the wall with a free kick before substitute Miroslav Stoch had a shot well-saved by Sorenson after a mazy dribble from the young winger, but there was still time for Lampard to shoot home from 20 yards to seal a memorable win for Scolari's side. It was a game Chelsea should have and could have won comfortably, but Chelsea fans will find their post-match beer tastes all that bit sweeter.
___________________________________________________________________

Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa (Belletti), Carvalho, Alex, Ashley Cole, Lampard, Mikel (Stoch), Ballack, Malouda (Di Santo), Anelka, Kalou

Stoke City: Sorensen, Wilkinson, Shawcross, Abdoulaye Faye, Higginbotham (Griffin), Delap, Whelan, Amdy Faye (Pugh), Etherington (Kitson), Beattie, Cresswell

Attendance: 41,788

The TalkChelsea.net Man of the Match was...

Frank Lampard


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