Stoke City gave Chelsea something to think about, but couldn’t prevent the Blues extending their record-equalling winning streak.
With Chelsea chasing a 13th league win in a row, a visit to Stamford Bridge wasn’t exactly the ideal way to end a steady 2016 for Stoke City.
The Potters, however, made life difficult for the home side, who had to fight hard to keep their fantastic run alive.
Stoke City seize the initiative
A positive for the away side from the get-go was the full return of Dutch playmaker Ibrahim Afellay.
Afellay made his initial return to the Stoke City fold after coming off the bench during the Boxing Day defeat to Anfield, and manager Mark Hughes was happy to give him the nod in the starting XI.
City started brightly, containing the potent Chelsea attack and preventing the likes of Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas to get on the ball and dictate play.
Both Xherdan Shaqiri and Charlie Adam had early sniffs of Thibault Courtois’ goal. At the other end, Costa and Gary Cahill called Lee Grant into some early action.
Stoke City were holding their own, and arguably had the better of the opening half-hour. With 10 minutes until half-time however, Cahill climbed highest to nod home as the home side began to force the issue.
See-saw second period
Stoke City seemed relatively unmoved after going behind. Clearly still aware they were very much in the game, Bruno Martins Indi grabbed his first goal for the Potters seconds after the restart.
The ever-reliable target man Peter Crouch was on hand to nod the ball down for the Dutchman to pounce.
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Chelsea though, angered by losing their lead, responded quickly. The impressive Willian made the most of a Victor Moses dummy and slotted past Grant.
Determined not to be denied, Stoke City forced the scores level once more. Substitute Bojan found Mame Biram Diouf, whose low ball met Crouch who made no mistake.
Chelsea were starting to show their blistering form once more. Gianelli Imbula was pressured into a mistake on the edge of the box, and Willian rifled the ball into the roof of the net to grab his second of the game.
Wanting to put the game to bed, the Blues began to turn the screw. An industrious Costa got the better of Martins Indi and deservedly put himself on the score sheet to put the game beyond the Potters’ reach.
It’s not the first time this season that Stoke City have walked off the field undeterred having not won.
It was a performance that pushed Chelsea perhaps as hard as any other side has done so far this season.
Despite conceding another four goals, Hughes and Stoke City can take many more a positive from the trip to Stamford Bridge than they could from Anfield.
Inevitably, Chelsea’s superiority shone through in the latter stages of the game. But upon reflection of the 90 minutes as a whole, the Potters matched them in many areas.
After the game, boss Hughes spoke to stokecityfc.com:
"“Today, I thought we did really well to be honest. We showed great courage in getting back on level terms twice; I felt at 2-2 that we were good value to get a draw out of the game.”"
Stoke City can now look forward to a bit of fixture-list respite. After visiting the league’s top two sides, the Potters now entertain a struggling Watford side on Tuesday night.