Stoke holds Chelsea to 1-1 draw in Premier League
Chelsea's hopes of retaining the Premier League title all but vanished Saturday when it was held to a 1-1 draw at Stoke.
Jon Walters put the hosts ahead with an eighth-minute breakaway goal, but Didier Drogba headed an equalizer in the 33rd minute to salvage a point for the Blues.
But the disappointing result leaves Chelsea 11 points behind leader Manchester United with just eight games to play.
''I think it's very difficult,'' Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti said about the team's chances of winning the league.
However, the club still has hopes of winning the Champions League, where it welcomes United in the first leg of their quarterfinal on Wednesday.
''We didn't pick up any injuries so we are in a good position to prepare for the game against Manchester United,'' Ancelotti said. ''In the title race we have to close the gap, but in the Champions League we are at the same level as the other teams.''
Stoke hit the woodwork twice in the second half and forced several good saves from Petr Cech, while Drogba was also denied by the crossbar late on.
Fernando Torres was dropped to the bench and hardly threatened to score his first goal for the club after coming on with 30 minutes to go.
Walters opened the scoring when he took advantage of David Luiz's hesitancy out wide on the halfway line to nip past and race into the penalty area before cutting the ball back on to his right foot and beating Cech at his near post.
Chelsea's response saw Ashley Cole's diving header clawed away by Asmir Begovic and Florent Malouda volley just over from range.
But John Terry was almost embarrassed as much as his central defensive partner Luiz had been on the opposite flank when he lost possession to Kenwyne Jones before racing back to get in a crucial touch just as the striker looked to shoot.
Begovic was then relieved to see Rory Delap clear after the goalkeeper dropped Frank Lampard's brilliant 25-yard volley at the feet of Nicolas Anelka.
Chelsea struggled as Jones gave Terry and Luiz a torrid time, but took advantage of Stoke's first failure to close down the visitors attack.
Anelka was given too much time from a deep position and he superbly picked out the diving Drogba to head powerfully past Begovic.
''We sat back in pockets after taking the lead,'' Stoke manager Tony Pulis said.
Stoke rattled the crossbar twice within a few seconds in the second half as first Marc Wilson's free kick crashed back off the woodwork, with Robert Huth's header from the resulting corner only being kept out by Petr Cech's outstretched hand and the frame of the goal.
Drogba continued to pose Chelsea's greatest threat and he too was denied by the crossbar with a shot on turn.