The performance was not convincing, but considering a packed Britannia Stadium and the intimidating aerial threat of Stoke City, the manager would at least be pleased to have registered a clean sheet and got a point out of the fixture. The game was sluggish to start with, as neither side was able to dominate proceedings. Chelsea in particular were wasteful in possession during the first half, giving the ball away cheaply on several occasions. While Stoke City chose to sit back and defend, while hitting the Blues’ defence on the counter-attack.
The second half saw a more attacking approach to the game and Chelsea came very close to scoring with a cheeky lob from Nicolas Anelka. Many would argue the Blues should have had a penalty in their favour when Frank Lampard was brought down inside the box, but it was not to be. And in the end the game ended a goalless draw.
One player who impressed was Fernando Torres. The Spaniard shook off his mid-week concussion scare, and put in a good performance on Sunday. His sharpness and skill on the ball showed he still has all the makings of a fantastic striker. And he will count himself unlucky not to have scored on the day. Villas-Boas will now have plenty to think over before the next game. The points he would have taken note of in particular, was how long it took his side to get going, an aspect which could be attributed to the fact this is their first game of the season. With the Blues going up against West Brom Albion in their next fixture at Stamford Bridge, things should get better for the Portuguese manager, who will need to get on the right track sooner rather than later.
However, there were also some positives to be drawn from the Blues’ performance. Torres looked a new player, while Chelsea’s vulnerability to set-pieces seemed to be overcome, as they successfully defended every one of Rory Delap’s long throws without much of a problem. Another noteworthy aspect in the game was how the Blues were able to pass the ball around tight spaces. The only thing missing was the final pass, which many would say, is why the manager is so adamant in his pursuit of Luka Modric.
With the first weekend of the season now behind him, Villas-Boas can look forward to the next match in charge and he will know better than anyone that he has failed to make a good first impression, which makes his response on the field next week all the more interesting.