Chelsea vs. Stoke: Winners and Losers from Premier League
Chelsea and Stoke City played out a 1-1 draw on Saturday in the Barclays Premier League.
Bertrand Traore fired the hosts ahead in the 39th minute, but Stoke drew level five minutes from full-time as Mame Biram Diouf headed past Thibaut Courtois.
"We have rested one or two players but it's good to see the players who came in, especially the young ones, like Traore and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, do well," Chelsea interim manager Guus Hiddink said, per BBC Sport. "Everyone knows in December we were one point off the relegation zone."
The draw kept Stoke is seventh place, while Chelsea remained in 10th. Here, Bleacher Report selects winners and losers from the match.
Winner: Bertrand Traore
With Diego Costa unavailable due to injury, Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink opted to start the match without a regular striker on the pitch. In came Bertrand Traore, a 20-year-old Burkina Faso international who generally operates as an attacking midfielder or winger.
Traore repaid Hiddink's faith with an excellent goal in the 39th minute. After the hosts won possession in Stoke's end, the youngster received the ball about 25 yards from goal. He turned expertly past his marker, set up his left foot and fired an unstoppable shot past Jack Butland with the outside of his boot.
It was an outstanding strike, and it showed why Hiddink had preferred Traore to Loic Remy and Alexandre Pato. But until that point, Traore hadn't been at his best.
In the fourth minute, he was unable to meet a Cesar Azpilicueta cross, failing to test Butland from close range. Thirty minutes later, he couldn't control the ball inside the box after Nemanja Matic had played him in.
So while the goal was very good, Traore still has parts of his game to work on. Still, as Bleacher Report's Garry Hayes noted on Twitter, Chelsea will be pleased with his contribution:
"(Chelsea) have got a player. Lovely from Traore. Quite why Stoke allowed him so much time to turn onto his left is beyond me. Still, great finish."
Loser, Then Winner: Mame Biram Diouf
Stoke City manager Mark Hughes handed a start to Mame Biram Diouf ahead of Jon Walters, presumably with the assumption that Diouf would be give Chelsea's back line problems with his pace.
For much of his 86 minutes on the pitch, however, Diouf was a disappointment.
In the 21st minute, Ibrahim Afellay picked out the Senegalese forward with a cross from the left, but Diouf lifted the ball over the bar. It was a big miss, but he wasn't finished.
Fifteen minutes later, Xherdan Shaqiri ran onto a pass on the right and crossed for Diouf, who bounced a poor attempt wide of the target despite being unmarked.
Diouf was then mostly quiet until the 85th minute, when he popped up with the equalizer. The goal meant he had a positive contribution on the day, but Diouf will know he could have done better.
Winner: Giannelli Imbula
Midfielder Giannelli Imbula was outstanding for Stoke. In an impressive 90 minutes for the visitors, the 23-year-old Frenchman showed composure on the ball, moved well without possession, positioned himself well and passed steadily all over the pitch.
Late in the second half, he won possession from Willian and started the sequence that led to Stoke's equalizer. In stoppage time, he powered down the left and reached the byline, before pulling back for Bojan. The latter was unable to score, but the move showcased Imbula's remarkable strength and stamina.
I'm not the first to say it, but signing Imbula in the winter window was excellent business by Stoke.
Loser: Loic Remy
With Diego Costa injured and unavailable, Saturday's match should have been a big opportunity for Loic Remy. Instead, the Frenchman started on the bench for Chelsea as Bertrand Traore started.
Remy made it onto the pitch in the second half, but he was simply ineffective. Hiddink has apparently moved Remy further down the pecking order, and Saturday's turn of events won't do anything to reverse that.
Winner and Loser: Thibaut Courtois
Thibaut Courtois is a top-class goalkeeper, but he'll probably be upset with himself after Stoke's goal. With a cross flying into his box in the 85th minute, the Belgian was only able to parry the ball to Mame Biram Diouf, who headed in the tying goal.
A keeper of Courtois' abilities should have got more on that clearance. That said, he was very good until that point in the match.
In the 19th minute, he made a fine save to deny Ibrahim Afellay, and in the 59th minute, he stopped Xherdan Shaqiri's powerful drive from the edge of the box. In addition, Courtois commanded his box well—at least besides the goal sequence.
Then, in stoppage time, he made one more save on Bojan to preserve the result.
Overall, Courtois' contribution was positive. But he'll have some regrets about the manner in which he gave up the goal.