PREMIER LEAGUE: Stoke end Chelsea's title hopes with scintillating draw
It was an action-packed 90-plus minutes in great conditions at the Potteries which certainly should have yielded more than two goals with both sides having a host of chances throughout the contest.
Stoke have only one win in their last six league games but should remain 10th with the draw which ended a seven-game losing streak against Chelsea who had scored 18 goals and conceded just two in that time.
Venue: Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent Crowd: 27,508 Referee: Peter Walton Yellow cards:SC - Jonathan Walters 55' CHE - Jose Bosingwa 58', Ashley Cole 64'
GOAL Things started brilliantly for Stoke when Jonathan Walters won the ball in front of David Luiz on the halfway mark before advancing into the area, shaped to shoot and then skipped around Michael Essien and hammered home on his right foot in the eighth minute for his fifth league goal of the season.
Moments later, Chelsea almost leveled when Florent Malouda's lovely dink found an unmarked Ashley Cole in the area but his diving header was well-saved by Asmir Begovic who tipped it out for a corner. It was a scintillating start to the match.
The Blues got right back into the contest after the goal and were making all the running except for one instance in the 17th minute when Kenwyne Jones loomed dangerously on the right flank but the visiting defence were able to cover.
Five minutes later, Frank Lampard hit a sweet volley goalward after a Malouda corner was cleared straight to him but he couldn't beat Begovic, who was right behind it, but did manage to drop the ball where Nicolas Anelka was waiting but could not get anything on it from close range.
GOAL Just after the half-hour mark, Chelsea were on level terms when Anelka floated the ball into the box for Didier Drogba who scored with a wonderful diving header for his first goal in 11 matches - some may say against the run of play.
Stoke's Jones was creating a bit of mischief for Chelsea in his forward third and forced Cech to make a save in the 40th minute with a deflected shot as the Blues defence pressed the Potters striker in the last piece of play of any consequence for the first half.
Early in the second term, Stoke should have been 2-1 up but Blues keeper Cech came up with a top save with his legs when Jermaine Pennant was free in the box before Ramires crossed to Drogba down the other end but he side-footed into the post in a fascinating end-to-end encounter.
Fernando Torres replaced Anelka in the 61st minute as Carlo Ancelotti chased the win but it was Stoke who came closest when Marc Wilson's stunning strike hit the bar with some help from Cech before the ensuing corner was brilliantly saved by the Czech international from Robert Huth's header.
In the 73rd minute, Cech made yet another vital save from Etherington's close range header and somehow the visitors were still in the game. About nine minutes later they should have actually been up when Drogba turned in the area and hammered his left-foot shot onto the crossbar before Essien followed up with a 25-yard strike from the deflection but Begovic came up with a top save. It was anyone's guess as to who will find a winner here.
There was a moment with just a few minutes left when Lampard took on the Stoke defence with fast feet, appeared to have been dragged down before squeezing a shot out which rolled across the face of goal in an amazing game that should have given us more than two goals.
Stoke sub Ricardo Fuller should have given the home side all three points in injury time when Etherington flicked a cross in from the right but the unmarked Jamaican put his header wide and the match had to end 1-1 in what was a super spectacle for neutrals but a horror for the defending champions.
Stoke Asmir Begovic (gk) - Marc Wilson, Robert Huth, Ryan Shawcross, Danny Higginbotham (Collins 90+2') - Jermaine Pennant (Fuller 90'), Rory Delap, Glenn Whelan (Whitehead 85'), Matthew Etherington - Jonathan Walters, Kenwyne Jones
Subs - Carlo Nash (gk), Dean Whitehead (85'), Ricardo Fuller (90'), Danny Collins (90+2'), Danny Pugh, Andy Wilkinson, Salif Diao
Chelsea Petr Cech (gk) - Jose Bosingwa (Ivanovic 80'), David Luiz, John Terry, Ashley Cole - Ramires (Kalou 61'), Michael Essien, Frank Lampard, Florent Malouda - Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka (Torres 61')