The unbeaten domestic run goes on for Chelsea under Guus Hiddink but after three straight wins in the league, the 1-1 draw at home to Stoke left the manager unsatisfied with a couple of details.
His decision to start Bertrand Traore up front in the absence of Diego Costa was vindicated when the 20-year-old struck a fine opener late in the first half, but another African striker, Mame Diouf, levelled it up for the Potters a similar time from the end of the second period...
‘Of course it is frustrating because we conceded a late goal,’ said Hiddink as he analysed Saturday afternoon’s game.
‘We started rather sloppy in the first half but after 25 or 30 minutes we got more energy and more composure and scored a beautiful goal through Traore. There was one key moment in the second half when the penalty was not awarded to Oscar, you can see it was a clear, clear, clear penalty and I do not often say that but it would have been given as a free-kick outside of the box.
‘I think it was a key moment but we must not say that Stoke were not pushing and they were encouraged by that. They have some creative attacking players so at the end I think it was a fair result.’
It was a minor tendon problem that ruled Diego Costa out. Hiddink decided not to risk our topscorer with the Paris Saint-Germain game on the horizon. He expects the player to be fit for Wednesday’s match but on this occasion gave Traore his first start in front of the home support…
‘We already saw in the games Traore had come on in that he has quality but it is different when you start at the Bridge. Young players have to try to control their nerves but he showed with the goal he has the capacity to do a lot.’
Chelsea end Saturday in 10th position in the Premier League, 10 points off the Champions League qualification places…
‘Fourth place is difficult, almost impossible, especially when other teams are also knocking on that door,’ admitted Hiddink.
‘We have win all the games but we came from December when we were one point from the relegation zone to get safe and to the middle of the table in a relatively short time. By normal Chelsea standards this is not enough but if we can go into a beautiful March and April in the Champions League and FA Cup, that would be nice.’