Chelsea shoot themselves in the foot at Stoke

Posted by Phil Lythell

Michael Regan/Getty ImagesJose Mourinho's Chelsea have allowed six goals in their last two games to two of the weaker teams in the Premier League.

Jose Mourinho will be left bewildered and concerned after seeing his Chelsea team slip to a 3-2 defeat at Stoke City.

A game in which the Blues were exerting complete control resulted in them somehow conceding the advantage to a team that has struggled to score goals this season, with just 12 from 14 outings to their name prior to kick-off. Chelsea have now let in six goals in two matches against sides hovering in and around the relegation zone, a statistic that will be of particular concern to Mourinho.

- Match report: Stoke 3-2 Chelsea

Four of those goals have come from set pieces with a lack of communication and poor decision-making all contributing to the dismantling of any positive moments at the other end of the pitch. Against Sunderland, Chelsea were able to offset their defensive failings and emerge with the right result, though if lessons are not learned eventually, a price has to be paid and it was at the Britannia Stadium.

Petr Cech might not have had a chance with Stoke's second or third goals, but he was the most culpable for the concession of the first. His hesitancy in deciding whether to come off his line to collect the corner meant that he ended up stranded in no man’s land, allowing Peter Crouch to poke the ball home from close range just before halftime.

It was particularly galling as the Potters had offered no threat whatsoever until that point with Chelsea dominating possession and taking a deserved lead through Andre Schurrle's smart strike. The failure to build on that position ultimately proved to be costly as a single slip from the Blues' goalkeeper was all it took for momentum to be checked and the home side to gain belief.

To add to the frustration, Mourinho's golden touch of making decisive substitutions was also absent. His introduction of Samuel Eto'o halfway through the second half in place of the double-goalscorer Schurrle -- who also thumped the woodwork with a delightful curling shot -- was rather surprising, though it hinted at a desire to grab all three points especially as Frank Lampard also came on for John Obi Mikel. Far from giving Chelsea added impetus, the switch actually hindered Chelsea's attacking play with Eto'o never able to get up to the pace of the game. The Cameroonian was constantly caught in possession or chose the wrong pass when an alternative was glaringly obvious and the Blues were not able to gather the head of steam that the manager had been hoping for.

Chelsea's attacks were undermined almost every time the ball fell at his feet and Schurrle must have been looking on from the bench wondering why he was no longer on the pitch given his impressive performance. Lampard was positive after he came on, however, the removal of Mikel meant that there was a huge gap between midfield and defence when possession was turned over. That space was exploited by Stoke as they grabbed their winner with Eto'o losing the ball and the Potters able to flood forward with Chelsea's defensive shield conspicuous by its absence.

While Eto'o will be disappointed by his day at the office, Fernando Torres will not be feeling much better. The Spaniard was anonymous for the 59 minutes that he was on the pitch and not once did he get into a decent goal-scoring position. Twice Eden Hazard tried to pick him out in the penalty area and although neither pass retained pinpoint accuracy, he was not helped by Torres' failure to attack the ball.

Out of all the strikers Chelsea fielded, Demba Ba was the most effective with his muscularity ensuring that Stoke's burly centre-backs did not have it all their own way. However, he was also the recipient of one of several instances of selective myopia from referee Jonathan Moss. With the score at 2-2, Ryan Shawcross bundled into the Senegalese in the penalty area as the striker waited to control a long pass, but instead of pointing to the spot, Moss merely waved play on. Stoke's second goal also came via some generous officiating with Jonathan Walters' barge on Cesar Azpilicueta overlooked as the ball ran on for Stephen Ireland to bend home. The initial thought was that perhaps the referee chose not to intervene in an attempt to let the game flow, but when Juan Mata was penalised for the exact same infringement moments later it confirmed that it was simply incompetence on Moss' part.

Nevertheless, it would be churlish to lay the blame for defeat at the hands of the officials. Ultimately, it was a combination of an inability to defend set pieces and the failure to kill off inferior opponents. After a positive week in which seven goals had been netted in the previous two matches and with Chelsea's attacking machine slipping ominously into gear, the dropping of three points is incredibly disappointing. The fact that it was all down to their own failings merely compounds the misery.

Follow Phil Lythell on Twitter @PhilLythell


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