Chelsea 1-1 Stoke City - 5 Talking Points

Thibaut Courtois
Thibaut Courtois making a save during the game

Stoke City hold Chelsea to an entertaining 1-1 draw at the Stamford Bridge. Chelsea had decided to rest some of their key players indicating their focus on their Champions League fixture against Paris Saint-Germain in midweek. Goals from Bertrand Traore and Mame Biram Diouf threw this simmering clash into explosion.Here are the five talking points from this game.

#5 Thibaut Courtois - A Beacon of Hope

Thibaut Courtois
Thibaut Courtois making a save during the game

Chelsea are having one of their worst seasons in the Abramovich era. With league and top four already out of their reach, the Blues hardly have anything to cheer about. Even in this hour of despair, there is a sense of optimism ringing in and around the Stamford Bridge. The reason for that is a certain Belgian. No, he’s not Eden Hazard but the 23-year-old shot-stopper, Thibaut Courtois.

The lanky stopper more often than not has bailed Chelsea out from the troubled waters. Today, it was an inspirational performance by the goalkeeping protégé. His exemplary shot-stopping coupled with exceptional positional sense was a joy to behold. Although, it was his error which let Stoke claw their way back into the game, lest not forget if not for his heroics Chelsea would’ve had a mountain to climb in this tie.

Although Chelsea’s hopes of league glory are done and dusted but we all know Chelsea can pack a punch in knockout competitions. And Courtois’ presence in between the sticks gives them just enough edge in that department.

#4 Chelsea youngsters flourish

Bertrand Traore
Bertrand Traore celebrating his goal

Guus Hiddink chose to rest few of his key players in order to focus on the Champions League fixture in midweek. As Chelsea are not seriously involved in the league, it seemed like a risk worth taking. This was a golden opportunity for Chelsea’s famed starlets to make a claim for a spot in the first team.

Bertrand Traore replaced Diego Costa in the starting line-up and Ruben Loftus-Cheek replaced Eden Hazard at around the hour mark. Both the academy players had a promising outing, especially Traore, who capped his evening with a fantastic goal. Along with them, Baba Rahman too had a decent evening after a series of unconvincing performances.

There was a clamor to instill young blood into this aging Chelsea setup during the time of Jose Mourinho. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. This is evident under Hiddink who has revived Chelsea’s fortunes this season.

#3 Sparky\'s Stoke dazzle at the Bridge

Stoke City
Stoke City have been a joy to watch this season

There was a time when Stoke City were known for its peculiar footballing style. Just over three years back, they were notoriously accused of playing rugby in the Premier League. Fast forward to 2016 and the Potters are getting rave reviews for their intricate and zippy passing game.

Mark Hughes has radically transformed Stoke City within two seasons. The former Manchester City manager is lauded for creating one of the most exciting footballing sides in the league. Hughes’ recruitment policy is no wonder the most important factor in this paradigm shift. Signings of talented players like Ibrahim Affelay, Bojan Krkic, Giannelli Imbula and Xherdan Shaqiri has given a new dimension to his side.

Today they took the game to Chelsea in their own den by matching them for every pass and tackle. The artistry of Shaqiri and Co. was complemented by the dynamism of Imbula, who completely bossed Chelsea in the midfield.

Stoke have been known for their defensive organization and physicality ever since they’ve made their debut in Premier League. But Hughes has added much needed brains to this brawny side. And the results are there for everyone to see. With a place for Europa League up for grabs, it is an interesting time for every Stoke City fan.

#2 Giannelli Imbula inspires Stoke.

Giannelli Imbula
Giannelli Imbula stopping John Obi Mikel

Stoke City’s record signing today proved one and all that his stay in Portugal was just a blip in his bright career. Giannelli Imbula simply bulldozed Chelsea’s midfield comprising of stalwarts like Nemanja Matic and John Obi Mikel.

The Frenchman was at his dynamic best as he excelled in the role of a box-to-box midfielder in a double pivot alongside Glenn Whelan. His composure in possession and ability to sniff out an incisive pass out of nowhere were the highlights of his performance. It were his lanky legs which kept the Potters’ wheels rolling at the Bridge.

Imbula was strong in tackle which helped Stoke retain possession in the middle of the park. There was a lot of commotion in Europe when Mark Hughes splashed the cash on a failed Porto buy in January window, but everything is making sense. With the Euros looming large on the horizon, the 23-year-old is looking like a dark horse to make the cut in the super competitive French midfield.

#1 Potters rue missed chances

Mark Hughes
Stoke City manager Mark Hughes during the game

Stamford Bridge, nowadays, is not a fortress as it was just over a year ago. Away teams aren’t intimidated by the hosts and are willing to take them head on. Mark Hughes’ Stoke City entered into this tie with a similar bold intent.

Stoke began the game on a promising note as they harried the hosts with their slick passing and effective positional play. The visitors also won the midfield battle for majority of the game, mainly due to an inspirational performance by their club record signing, Giannelli Imbula.

Within thirty minutes, Stoke City’s attacking triumvirate of Affelay, Arnautovic and Shaqiri had sliced open Chelsea’s defence multiple times. The visitors had the best of the chances created, if only Mame Biram Diouf had got his shooting boots on. Diouf wasted two one-on-one chances in first half prior to Chelsea’s goal.

It was a similar story in the second half except one thing. The Potters’ had finally managed to get their deserved equalizer. In first half, Stoke were themselves to blame for trailing in the game but in the second half they were partly denied by some inspirational goalkeeping by Thibaut Courtois.

If only Stoke had taken their chances, it would’ve been a different result altogether.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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