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March 10, 2012
• Stamford Bridge, London
Referee: A. Marriner
• Attendance: 40945
FULL-TIME! Stoke will wonder what could have been if not for Fuller's red card, as Chelsea hardly moved above mediocrity in this match and might have struggled against a full 11 players. They get their second win under Roberto Di Matteo, however. Thank you for joining me for this Premier League match.
90' + 1'
The set-piece comes to nothing once more, easily headed out. Into a final 3 minutes added on.
Daniel Sturridge gets forward but Huth's interception is vital and forces him out wide again. The England man comes back to force a corner with a deflected shot, though.
The game is petering out now. Stoke's brief period of equaliser-chasing has slowed to a crawl and, Mata set-pieces aside, Chelsea do not look likely to extend their lead.
Chelsea get a free kick from just right of centre. Juan Mata and Frank Lampard line up for it ... and it's the Spaniard who takes it - OFF THE POST! So close to 2-0 as the playmaker's shot fizzes off the woodwork. Sturridge puts it in the net in the aftermath but it's offside.
A slight show of promise from Daniel Sturridge, who holds off a defender to push forward and shoot, from outside the area, a little too wide.
Cameron Jerome this time breaks for Stoke, by and large evading John Terry with a pacy run, but his shot isn't on target.
Salomon Kalou loses possession in an ever-rarer spell of play for Chelsea with a wooden first touch. Instead of seeing this game out after the goal, the hosts have quietened down again.
Andy Wilkinson has a moment of inspiration on the halfway line. He spots that Petr Cech is off his line and aims a chip high towards the empty net. The goalkeeper doesn't need to get back to his line, though, as it's a little too far over.
Ryan Shotton's long throws may be the best resource available to Tony Pulis and Stoke are able to bounce the ball around in the Chelsea area a bit. Cameron Jerome's volley back into the centre is cleared for a corner, but it comes to nothing.
That said, the first thing that Stoke do is get forward. Both sides give it away to each other before Jon Walters ends up with the ball on the inside-left channel, but his shot is not threatening and rolls wide.
It seems little exaggeration to say that Stoke's game plan was entirely based on holding off the lacklustre Chelsea attack for 90 minutes. Now they need to find a goal from somewhere and it's hard to see how that can happen.
Ashley Cole wraps his legs around Andy Wilkinson in a fair but tough challenge - and the Stoke defender looks to be struggling. He can't be substituted, of course.
That is Didier Drogba's 100th Premier League goal - he is the first African player to reach the landmark.
Assist Juan Mata
Goal Didier Drogba
GOAL! Finally the breakthrough. Juan Mata has space to move on the edge of the area and slip it between the centre-backs. Drogba's first touch is an absolute delight and he sets himself perfectly to dispatch the finish.
John Obi Mikel
The final substitution of the game is made as Roberto Di Matteo goes all-out in attack by bringing on Daniel Sturridge for the entirely superfluous defensive midfielder Mikel.
After a dreadful shot from Ashley Cole flies well over, Chelsea finally muster a better effort. From a free kick conceded by Upson, Didier Drogba unleashes a piledriver from 25 yards out, but Begovic leaps brilliantly to divert it away from the top corner.
This is essentially boiling down to a game of attack versus defence. Stoke are doing what they have to but are not being made to do any more by a Chelsea side who look to be going through the motions.
The last throw of the dice from Tony Pulis sees Cameron Jerome enter the fray as the lone forward, Kenwyne Jones ending a very quiet display.
John Terry suddenly produces a moment of quality! It's the two centre-backs who have done best for Chelsea up front so far, and the captain aims a powerful shot from well outside the box not far wide.
Begovic punches away well from a Mata corner. Chelsea get it back but this time the eventual delivery is headed away again - but the nature of Stoke's tactics now are that the hosts will have it back yet again right away.
David Luiz tries to do it all himself. There is space to run into, which the Brazilian accepts, but his shot is beyond tame, a real let-off for Asmir Begovic.
David Luiz should have a yellow card, if not for the clumsy shoving of Wilkinson then for standing on his back in the follow-through. Neither is deemed worthy of a card. The standing was not intentional, but still.
Chelsea have a lot of time to build up but again don't do a great deal with it. Ashley Cole takes a turn to cross but it's fairly aimless. Ramires is closest to it but he can't make contact and so it's a goal kick.
From the corner that results, Gary Cahill goes after the ball but he feels that he's been fouled by Ryan Shawcross. The referee is unmoved.
Juan Mata combines with Frank Lampard to let the England man loose down the left. His cross is not met but not dealt with either...
Tony Pulis makes a double substitution just after the break. Salif Diao, booked and apparently injured at the end of the first half, is replaced by Wilson Palacios, whilst Marc Wilson, who was embarrassingly skinned once by Ivanovic and generally allowed him space, makes way for Matthew Upson.
Lampard gets a brief sight of goal and he tests Begovic, the Bosnian keeper fumbling and letting it free just in front of him. Didier Drogba can't quite get to it before he recovers, though.
There are suggestions that Ivanovic's withdrawal is due to after-effects from the Ricardo Fuller stamp. It did look nasty at the time but he showed no discomfort afterwards.
Begovic claims a corner with total ease.
An unexpected half-time change for Chelsea - David Luiz is on at right-back for Branislav Ivanovic, who contributed more than most for the Blues in the first half. We're back underway.
Chelsea are odds-on favourites to go on and win from here but they will need to develop more penetration and purpose from everyone whose name isn't Juan Mata. Stoke will just want to keep doing what they're doing, though we will see if they need to replace Salif Diao at half-time. He went down injured just before the break.
HALF-TIME! Chelsea 0-0 Stoke City and the quality on show has been rather below average. The half will be defined by Ricardo Fuller's outrageous stamp and deserved sending-off, while Chelsea have been afforded a lot of space on the flanks and created the occasional chance but have not truly dominated.
45' + 2'
Juan Mata definitely looks to have added a little extra spark. He turns and tries a lifted pass through into the box, but it's dealt with. Stoke, in truth, are not being troubled seriously.
Nice idea from Juan Mata. The substitute attempts a canny flick into the path of Drogba in the area, only to see it just intercepted.
Gary Cahill is penalised for crashing into Kenwyne Jones in the process of leaping to meet the ball. Stoke take the free kick but immediately lose it once again.
The Blues look to build up on the edge of the box and Frank Lampard tries to wriggle free to let a shot off. It goes straight to Begovic and the Chelsea midfielder apologises to his colleagues.
Ivanovic again is the man in the action for Chelsea! A cross from the right is really poorly cleared by Shawcross, straight into the path of the right-back, who smashes a first-time effort against the bar. Stoke have been poor so far.
Stoke make a mess of a free kick, attempting to play it short despite having brought the centre-backs up. They lose possession immediately and Wilson is booked in the scramble to recover.
Yellow Card Marc Wilson
Roberto Di Matteo looks to effect a much-needed change. Raul Meireles is withdrawn to introduce Juan Mata as Chelsea look to press their numerical advantage.
Good stop from Begovic! Branislav Ivanovic is afforded a lot of space on the right and he turns inside to breeze almost embarrassingly past Wilson. He slips it to a team-mate who plays an instant lob into the onrushing Serb's path, as he continues into the area. Ivanovic aims a header at goal but the Stoke keeper gets back to claim it.
Didier Drogba has a glimpse of goal close in but the two Stoke defenders do well to muscle him out. Juan Mata is on the verge of coming on, it seems.
Branislav Ivanovic is thankfully OK after Fuller's apparent attempt to puncture his groin but his cross from the right-hand side is disappointing and easily dealt with.
A rowdy penalty area, poorly controlled by Andre Marriner, sees John Terry meet Lampard's corner and head over, but the defender claims he's been shoved. Nothing doing for Chelsea, however.
Wilkinson kicks it away from the feet of Begovic to give Chelsea a corner. It is delayed by some insistent shirt-pulling and tussling in the area ...
Raul Meireles wastes some good progress down the left by scraping his shot well wide when it's cut back to him.
Stoke are shocked. They were already having enough trouble getting into this game and now must play most of it with less than a full complement. Chelsea still need to improve to match the numbers, though.
Red Card Ricardo Fuller
RED CARD! Ricardo Fuller has already been punished for a silly foul on Ivanovic, but he goes a lot further now. In the Chelsea have, he stumbles as the Serbian keeps him away from a cross. The striker, in an inexplicable moment of rage, very deliberately stamps on Ivanovic and is immediately sent off. It's pretty shocking behaviour and Stoke are down to 10 men.
Gary Cahill takes a moment to recover having been knocked down. There was some concern from the bench but the centre-back looks to be fine.
Stoke are at least having some of the ball now. Raul Meireles plays an aimless pass straight out of play, which rather sums up the quality of the game so far.
Ricardo Fuller trips Branislav Ivanovic up just outside of the area as the right-back marauds forward. He's lucky that it's not a penalty, really, but is let off as Lampard's free kick is headed away again.
Dean Whitehead aims a cross from deep on the left towards Kenwyne Jones, but John Terry's header takes it away from him and into the path of the waiting Petr Cech. No signs of rustiness so far from the recovered patient.
Yellow Card John Obi Mikel
John Obi Mikel goes into the book for what really is a very innocuous challenge. A foul, yes, but Marriner was slightly harsh there. Chelsea still in quiet control of this game.
An important interception from Robert Huth cuts out a cross from Ramires, who totally evaded Marc Wilson. It means that Stoke can get it up the other end. Jon Walters heads forward alone, acidentally knocking John Terry over in the process, but, when he has a momentary opportunity to shoot, he tries to get back onto his favoured right foot and the moment passes.
Chelsea forge another decent chance. They build up on the left flank with Salomon Kalou who moves onto his right foot to deliver a deep cross. Ramires it is who meets it at the far post but the Brazilian doesn't get much of a touch on it.
Salif Diao is rightly booked as the Senegalese comes in through the back of Ramires, nowhere near the ball. The 35-year-old argues fruitlessly with referee Andre Marriner about it.
Yellow Card Salif Diao
A free kick from Frank Lampard from near the left touchline is lobbed directly into the hands of Begovic.
Walters nicks it from Drogba, who showed a leaden touch, but Stoke waste the rare moment of possession by hitting it long to nobody in particular and the home side have it back.
Chance for Chelsea! In contrast to Huth's excursion forward a moment ago, Gary Cahill advances in possession and bears down on goal. He shoots from 20 yards out at the end of his run and draws an excellent save from Asmir Begovic to divert it wide.
Ryan Shotton gets his first opportunity to let a long throw into the box and it does cause a problem or two for Chelsea, but it breaks outside the area to Huth, who can't resist having a very ambitious thwack. It goes a long way wide.
Stoke are having real trouble getting any sight of the ball so far. Chelsea are spreading it around with ease.
Chelsea have lined up in a 4-2-3-1, with Ramires wide right and Kalou on the left - Lampard is behind Drogba.
From it Chelsea have a corner - but Ivanovic sends a wasteful header well over! Missed opportunity for the Blues.
A hairy moment for Stoke as defensive miscommunication sees Asmir Begovic come out to try to claim a mistimed header, but there are bodies in the way and the keeper is lucky to see it drop over the bar.
Chelsea start with all the possession and force a corner off former player Robert Huth. Jones heads it out for a throw.
We're under way at Stamford Bridge.
Tony Pulis, meanwhile, has perhaps surprisingly opted for Ricardo Fuller up front alongside Kenwyne Jones, with more regular starters Peter Crouch and Cameron Jerome on the bench.
You'll note that Chelsea welcome back captain John Terry in the centre of defence, a very quick recovery from knee surgery. It's a big boost for interim boss Roberto Di Matteo, who has selected an interesting team otherwise. Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge are on the bench, while it looks like being some kind of midfield diamond with four central players. Salomon Kalou is in support of Didier Drogba.
STOKE TEAM NEWS: Begovic; Wilkinson, Shawcross (c), Huth, Wilson; Shotton, Whitehead, Diao, Walters; Jones, Fuller. Subs: Sorensen, Pennant, Upson, Delap, Crouch, Jerome, Palacios
CHELSEA TEAM NEWS: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Cole; Mikel, Meireles; Ramires, Lampard, Kalou; Drogba. Subs: Turnbull, David Luiz, Essien, Romeu, Mata, Sturridge, Torres.
Good afternoon and welcome to Goal.com's LIVE! play-by-play commentary of Chelsea - Stoke City in the Premier League. I'm George Ankers and you're very welcome. Team news coming right up.
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