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17:11 2nd April 2011

Stoke City 1 Chelsea 1

STOKE CITY edged another step closer to Barclays Premier League safety by taking their first point off reigning champions Chelsea since being promoted to the top-flight in a thrilling game before a packed house at the Britannia Stadium.

Republic of Ireland international Jon Walters fired City into an early lead with a stunning solo effort to become the Club's leading scorer before Didier Drogba equalised for the Blues in the 33rd minute with a powerful close range header.

Though a point was an excellent outcome for the Potters, it could have been all three as they had the chances to pull off a memorable victory with Marc Wilson and Robert Huth both being denied by the woodwork in the second half.

On top of that, record signing Kenwyne Jones went desperately close on a couple of occasions and right at the end substitute Ricardo Fuller could have won it with a close range header which drifted across the face of goal.

While the draw moved City onto 38 points, the result effectively ended Chelsea's hopes of retaining their title with Manchester United winning earlier in the day to stretch their lead at the top of the Premier League table.

Pulis stuck with the starting line-up that had recorded City's biggest-ever Premier League win in their last match against Newcastle, the only change to the matchday squad being Nash's inclusion on the bench in place of the injured Sorensen.

The Potters could have gone in front in the second minute when Pennant swung over a corner from the left and Huth escaped the attentions of his marker to meet it with a header, but he lifted his close range effort high over the bar.

Chelsea's response saw Bosingwa underline his threat coming forward down the right as he whipped over a centre which flashed across goal.

In a lively start to the match, City went in front in the eighth minute with a tremendous solo goal from Walters which caught Chelsea on the break.

The Republic of Ireland international left Luiz for dead as he burst down the left before cutting inside to fire a low shot past Cech at his near post.

Chelsea had a chance to hit back immediately when Drogba picked out Cole bursting forward and although he looked offside, fortunately for the Potters the England defender stooping header was pushed away by the alert Begovic.

The Blues began to exert intense pressure in search of a swift response and Malouda tried his luck from long range which flew over the crossbar.

There was some respite for City when Jones got the better of Terry and burst into the box, but the England defender recovered as he was shaping to shoot and the ball finished up back with Cech who completed the clearance.

The Potters then had another anxious moment when Lampard unleashed a volley which Begovic pushed out and Delap was on hand to clear with Anelka ready to pounce.

Chelsea sustained the pressure and Drogba volleyed high and wide from the edge of the box when Anelka got down the right to send over a cross.

And it was that combination which did the trick for the visitors in the 33rd minute when Anelka drifted into a deep position to deliver a ball into the box that found Drogba racing in to send a powerful header into the top corner.

City were struggling to deal with Chelsea's passing and movement, but Wilson read the situation well when Lampard tried to set up Ramires.

As the half drew to a close, Jones' persistence carved out an opening for himself as he wriggled his way into the box but seeing shot deflected into the arms of Cech.

City began the second half on the front foot and created an excellent chance to go back in front as Walters and Jones both left an Etherington cross for Pennant to drive a low shot goalbound only for the sprawling Cech to save with his legs.

Chelsea then had a similar opportunity at the other end as Drogba was picked out on the right hand edge of the box and his low shot hit the far post.

With the Blues desperately needing a win, Ancelotti threw the dice by sending on Torres and Kalou, but it was City who had the better chances.

After being awarded a free kick 25 yards out for a foul on Etherington, Whelan slipped the ball to Wilson whose fierce drive cannoned against the bar.

City could not believe their luck when they were denied by the woodwork again when Huth rose to meet the resulting corner and saw it pushed onto the bar by Cech.

The Potters continued to look the more likely to get a goal and Jones was only inches off target with two efforts in the space of as many minutes.

First, the record signing wriggled his way past Terry to first a shot just past the upright from a tight angle and then he headed just wide from a Delap throw-in.

At the other end, however, Chelsea hit the woodwork themselves when Drogba fired in a shot on the turn and then Begovic had to save a long range effort from Essien.

After having so many wonderful chances, City were anxious not to let Chelsea snatch all the points and it took a vital interception by Whitehead to stop Lampard in his tracks after both he and Torres had threatened to catch the home side on the break.

Fuller was introduced in place of Pennant as the game went into injury time and he immediately had a chance to win the game, rising at the far post to meet an Etherington cross but seeing his header drift across goal and beyond the far post.

    Data provided by Press Association


    The Potters played out four replays to finally beat Bury in the FA Cup in 1955