LONDON: Two-goal Andre Schurrle’s most incisive game of the season was not enough as Chelsea old boy Mark Hughes celebrated a rare victory over the Blues for his improving Stoke.
Moroccan winger Oussama Assaidi came off the subs’ bench to score a superb winning goal and the 3:2 defeat cost Chelsea the status of being Arsenal’s closest pursuers.
Chelsea had not lost to Stoke in the league since 1975, that is never in 10 matches in the two-decade history of the Premier League. Stoke, who edged up into midtable, had not even scored a goal against the Blues for three years.
Jose Mourinho shares the same challenge as Manuel Pellegrini and Andre Villas-Boas at Manchester City and Tottenham: trying to assimilate a raft of new players – and foreign ones in particular – is a problematic process.
At Stoke Mourinho left Frank Lampard on the bench, dropped Willian altogther and recalled John Obi Mikel and Schurrle. But he had run out of energy and been substituted when Liverpool loanee Assaidi scored a superb solo winner.
Mourinho praised his players for their attacking football in first half but criticised his defence for their carlessness in the second. He said: “It’s a big concern. I don’t organise my teams this way. Individual mistakes sometimes kill a team.
“In midweek, at Sunderland, we conceded goals at set pieces and this time we lost another one. We are playing some very good football but conceding some goals that we shouldn’t.”
Manchester City are unstoppable in the Premier League at home but their away form remains erratic and the 1-1 draw at Southampton was a cautionary tale for manager Manuel Pellegrini ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League trip to Bayern Munich.
Sergio Aguero gave City the lead, sweeping home a cross from Aleksandar Kolarov. Aguero then missed an easy chance to double the lead and City paid the penalty as Dani Osvaldo secured a deserved draw for injury-hit Southampton.
Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, just in case England needed it, offered a reminder against West Ham of what a danger he will prove to Roy Hodgson’s men in the World Cup Group D in Sao Paulo in June.
Brendan Rodgers’s men took advantage of Chelsea’s defeat at Stoke to regain second place on goal difference after a 4-1 win inspired by the Uruguayan.
A Suarez shot provoked Guy Demel’s own goal before half-time then he won a free-kick from which Mamadou Sakho scored a first goal for the club. Just for security Suarez added a late goal of his own.
He even came close to another hat-trick after his four-goal midweek mauling of Norwich. Suarez’s has scored 26 goals in his last 25 league matches, including 10 in his last four home games.
West Bromwich and manager Steve Clarke were jeered off by their own fans at The Hawthorns after losing 2-0 at home to Norwich.
Stephane Sessegnon and Shane Long both wasted two clear chances for Albion who have won only one game in nine.
In the relegation zone Tony Pulis enjoyed a second home victory inside a week as Crystal Palace’s new manager saw his promoted strugglers beat Cardiff 2-0.
Sunderland were led further adrift at the bottom of the table after losing 2:1 at home to Tottenham for whom Jermain Defoe twice hit the posts. Lewis Holtby enjoyed his best game of the season, creating a host of shooting chances for team-mates, before being substituted late on.
** FA Cup holders Wigan have appointed Uwe Rosler as new manager in place of Owen Coyle. Roberto Martinez left for Everton after their FA Cup win and relegation in May so Rosler in their third manager in six months.
Rosler, a former Manchester City striker, left London club Brentford fourth in the third division, having won the division’s manager of the month award for November.