Under former Chelsea man Mark Hughes’s command, Stoke City have tried admirably to move on from the simpler, tougher years of Tony Pulis’ ironshanks reign. They’ve not been entirely successful, with the likes of Ryan Shawcross and Charlie Adam still dressed in red and white, but their presence certainly contributes to an air of tenacity and determination that kept the Potters fighting on Saturday, even as Chelsea kept taking the lead repeatedly.
Of course, not getting called offside does help at times.
That’s just about the best screencap I can get of the free kick taken by Adam, nodded down by Crouch, and guided into the back of the net by Bruno Martins Indi. It’s an offside that went largely unmentioned by the coverage and the media, but Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte didn’t hesitate to bring it up or take responsibility for it rather magnanimously.
“My emotion depends on the type of game we face and the difficult of the game. When you take the lead and concede at the start of the second half, when it was clearly offside, it’s my fault because I train my defenders to keep the right line until the ref’s whistle. My players were very good, the linesman not so much.”
“After the second goal it wasn’t easy to have a great reaction, especially after 12 wins in a row because when you win a lot there is a great danger to be satisfied and relax because you can think if you draw it’s not important. My players showed me a great will to fight to win, I’m pleased for them. I’m their coach but they deserve it.”
Thanks to Stoke’s resilience and luck in front of goal, Chelsea were faced with a slightly different situation than before. The boss was rightly pleased with the squad’s response.
"This game was very competitive and today is another example of when I talk about the difficulty of the Premier League. We faced a really good team and they played the long ball which is very difficult to intercept and win second balls. I’m pleased because my players showed me they are able to adapt to different types of football we face in the league."
"They showed great character because it’s not easy when you take the lead and concede, and do it again. I was a player so I know this type of situation. You look at the clock and see you don’t have much time to win the game."
"My players were fantastic to take the lead again. We deserved to win the game. It’s not easy because after so many wins you face teams who want to beat you for many reasons and we must know this. When you have these type of players you can go to sleep happy."
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
Happy sleep and a happy new year. The squad will of course be back in training tomorrow as preparations for Spurs and the second-half the season begin.