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Chelsea Lose to Stoke, but Must Take Positives from Andre Schurrle's Performance

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 07:  Andre Schurrle of Chelsea celebrates after scoring their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Chelsea at Britannia Stadium on December 7, 2013 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Scott Heavey/Getty Images
Garry HayesFeatured Columnist IVDecember 21, 2016

"In like a laser," cried the Match of the Day commentator as Andre Schurrle pulled Chelsea level against Stoke City with a clinical long-range effort.

If only the rest of the Blues' performance was so red hot. Had it been, they wouldn't have lost the game 3-2, severely denting their title prospects in the process.

Just days earlier, Chelsea had come close to throwing away victory against Sunderland, stumbling over the finish line to record a 4-3 victory.

Jose Mourinho's men dominated from beginning to end at the Stadium of Light that night, but they kept allowing Sunderland back into the game with their inability to defend from set pieces.

And so it proved against Stoke. Only this time they paid ultimate price when Peter Crouch's 42nd-minute equalizer—direct from a corner, no less—pulled the Potters back into a game they had deserved very little from up to that point.

Crouch's goal gave the home team the impetus they needed to impose themselves on the second half, capitalizing further on Chelsea's defensive frailties to win the game with a dramatic last-minute effort from Oussama Assaidi.

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 07:  Peter Crouch of Stoke scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Chelsea at Britannia Stadium on December 7, 2013 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Gett
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

When the season reaches its climax, should Mourinho fail in his bid to bring the Premier League title back to Stamford Bridge, it is results such as this that will be looked upon with more than a hint of regret.

With respect to the opposition, Chelsea shouldn't be losing matches to Stoke. Not if they consider themselves genuine title contenders, nor when they play with the attacking verve they displayed against the Potters. And especially not when they have a player like Schurrle putting in a performance deserving of victory.

Indeed, the German's display is one of the few positives that can be taken from Saturday's defeat.

In Schurrle and Eden Hazard, Chelsea have two players who appear to be entering their best period of form for the club. It was the latter who proved the difference against Sunderland midweek and, after his brace against Stoke, Schurrle very nearly did the same at the Britannia Stadium.

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 07:  Oussama Assaidi of Stoke celebrates after scoring their third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Chelsea at Britannia Stadium on December 7, 2013 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Had it not been for the woodwork, he may well have secured victory with a hat-trick after another long-range effort eluded Asmir Begovic in the second half, this time crashing back off the crossbar with the scores level at 2-2.

Schurrle demonstrated his class throughout on Saturday. His goal to open the scores on nine minutes was majestic, turning Ryan Shawcross inside out not once, but twice, before rocketing his shot low and hard beyond Begovic from 20 yards. His second was just as impressive, too.

From not appearing to know his best XI, Mourinho now has players who are beginning to play themselves into his starting line-up. He can no longer ignore Schurrle, just like he cannot resist the talents of Hazard.

For that, he should be grateful. Chelsea's teething problems may be continuing a little longer than Mourinho would like, yet some are beginning to become solutions, with Schurrle one of them.

Outside of that, the other concerns remain, however. Chelsea have now conceded 13 goals in their past 10 matches in all competitions while their strikers continue to fire blanks.

"When you produce such good football, like we did in the first half, you have to score goals," Mourinho explained to BBC Sport. "We didn't. We scored one goal, not by a striker, but a No. 10 or a winger [Schurrle], the way you want call him.

"We produce, we produce, we produce and we don't score enough goals in relation to our production and our quality of football. On top of that, the first goal [Stoke's equalizer] is another mistake."

If Mourinho can iron out those problems, with Schurrle to call upon, he will have a winning formula few could resist.

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes

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