Reigning Premier League champions Chelsea sit a distant 11 points behind leaders Manchester United following Saturday?s 1-1 draw with Stoke.
Jonathan Walters’ early strike shook the Blues until Didier Drogba levelled matters before the break in a game that could have produced far more goals.
Carlo Ancelotti made a tactical switch up front with Salomon Kalou and goal-shy Fernando Torres dropping to the bench to allow Drogba and Nicolas Anelka to spearhead the Blues? attack.
Robert Huth’s early miss was soon forgotten as Walters ran at Michael Essien and cut back on his right foot to beat Petr Cech with a ferocious cross-shot after eight minutes.
Chelsea came close to an instant retort as Ashley Cole steered his diving header wide, while John Terry’s timely tackle denied Kenwyne Jones at the opposite end.
But Chelsea’s strikers did re-pay manager Carlo Ancelotti’s faith as they linked up perfectly in the 33rd minute with Drogba meeting Anelka’s perfectly-weighted chipped pass for a textbook diving header.
The drama continued after the interval as Jermaine Pennant shot straight at Cech’s legs and Drogba struck the post from a tight angle
The Potters were unlucky not to regain the lead with Marc Wilson’s 30-yard free-kick and Huth’s bullet header both pounding Cech’s crossbar in the space of 60 seconds.
The hosts’ profligacy continued with Jones and Walters both struggling to apply finishing touches from around the six yard box.
Drogba rattled Stoke’s woodwork late on as Chelsea’s grip on their champions crown slipped further from their grasp.
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