OUSSAMA ASSAIDI’S stunning stoppage time strike secured Stoke City a famous victory against second place Chelsea at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The on-loan Liverpool winger, who had only been introduced from the bench moments earlier, struck home a thunderous effort from 25-yards to complete a remarkable comeback for the home side having fallen behind to Andre Schurrle’s early opener.
Peter Crouch bundled home a leveller just before the half-time interval, before Stephen Ireland, another substitute, curled home a sublime second for the home side after latching onto a clever ball through from Jonathan Walters.
It looked as though Schurrle was to have the final word however, with a thunderous second soon after, before Assaidi delivered a killer blow to the Blues with an absolutely sensational finish in the dying stages to record a first home league victory over the Londoners since 1975.
Former Chelsea striker Mark Hughes made two changes to his starting line-up ahead of kick-off, with one of those being enforced upon him.
Erik Pieters failed to recover from a groin injury he sustained during the midweek stalemate with Cardiff meaning that Marc Muniesa was named in the starting eleven for the first time in the league at home.
The Welshman also opted to thrust Jonathan Walters back into action, replacing on-loan Liverpool winger Assaidi on the left-hand side of a midfield five.
The rest of the team remained unchanged with Marc Wilson continuing to deputise in defence fro Robert Huth, whilst Charlie Adam’s recent form was enough for him to hold off the challenge from Stephen Ireland, who had to make do with a spot amongst the substitutes.
Stoke, determined to build upon the point they picked up three days earlier, started brightly, with both Walters and Marko Arnautovic, who was once a Mourinho signing, looking lively during the initial proceedings.
That said, it was at the other end that the first real opportunity of the encounter was created just four minutes in, as Andre Schurrle used his pace and trickery to free Ramires inside the penalty box, although he couldn’t hit the target with his effort.
It was a warning that wasn’t taken note of adequately, as just two minutes later the visitors were ahead.
The creative Schurrle again proved to be a nuisance to the Potters backline, as he twisted and turned his way past both Wilson and Shawcross and hammered a thunderous effort beyond the reach of Begovic and into the bottom corner of the net.
It was a lead that should have been doubled soon after when Ramirez fired straight into the palms of the Bosnian international, when it appeared easier to have hit the jackpot.
Chelsea were bossing the opening 45 minutes, displaying the panache and creativity that had ensured back-to-back league victories prior to the encounter in the Potteries.
However, as they began to roam around, almost at ease, you could sense that there could be an avenue back into the game for the hosts should they have been able to get balls into the box.
As it happened, they managed to do just that, and in doing so it came as no surprise to see Hughes’ side level the scoreline.
Austrian international Arnautovic delivered a superb corner, Crouch controlled well and slammed the ball through the legs of Cahill and into the net to send the majority of supporters in attendance into absolute delirium.
The start of the second half heralded an obvious upturn in fortunes for everyone connected to the home side as the supporters roared on every surge forward as they, and players alike, sensed blood.
Chelsea were rocked by the rejuvenated Potters, and I don’t think that even they could quite believe what was occurring right in front of their eyes when Ireland latched onto a clever through ball from Walters and exquisitely curled the ball home from 20-yards.
Stoke fans were joyous, the players were determined – but then, before the fans had even managed to take their seats the visitors pulled it back to 2-2 thanks to another superb finish from German international Schurrle.
The winger, who arrived in London from Bayern Leverkusen, went agonisingly close to completing ah at-trick with an audacious 30-yard effort that cannoned back off the crossbar, much to the relief of the hosts
Ireland, who dispatched his earlier opportunity with aplomb of a finish, was then handed the chance to fire Stoke back into the lead following superb link-up play between Steven Nzonzi and Crouch, but he curled over with just Cech to beat.
Hughes to his credit showed attacking intent by introducing Assaidi at the expense of the industrious Walters, and it ultimately proved to be the Welshman’s trump card, as he was to slam home the decisive goal of the campaign later on.
Before that though, Begovic watched on anxiously as Samuel Eto’o fired just wide from 12-yards, whilst Wilson, who enjoyed another fine outing in the middle, had to be at his absolute best to thwart Eden Hazard as he steamed through the middle.
Mourinho himself introduced Demba Ba and Frank Lampard in a bid to record all three points for his side, but just as the fourth official elevated his electronic board aloft to confirm five minutes of additional time, Assaidi thumped home a winner to cap off an incredible afternoon in the Potteries.