Chelsea lost its third consecutive EPL match on Saturday as it fell to Stoke City
STOKE, England (AP) — Stoke beat Chelsea 1-0 Saturday to inflict the third straight Premier League defeat on the defending champions.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho missed the away game after receiving a stadium ban for his behavior toward match officials in his side's 2-1 defeat at West Ham in October.
The latest loss is his side's seventh defeat in 12 league matches and raises further doubts over Mourinho's future.
Mark Hughes' side broke the deadlock after the restart when Marko Arnautovic scored with an acrobatic effort in the 53rd minute.
Chelsea poured forward in search of an equalizer and Pedro was denied soon after when his left-footed shot cannoned back off the post with Butland beaten.
Ultimately, Chelsea failed to make the most of its chances as the optimism brought about by Wednesday's Champions League 2-1 win against Dynamo Kiev abruptly fizzled out with another loss to add to the League Cup exit also against Stoke at the Britannia Stadium last week.
Chelsea is now 16th in the Premier League, just three points above the relegation zone.
And despite his name being frequently chanted by Blues fans at the game, the questions about the prospect of Mourinho being fired will only intensify after this latest poor result.
Speculation abounded as to the Portuguese's possible whereabouts on Saturday, but there was no sign of him at the match, which was lively from the start.
Xherdan Shaqiri sent an acrobatic effort off-target in the opening seconds before Eden Hazard blazed into the stand at the other end.
Diego Costa engaged in the first of a series of scuffles with Ryan Shawcross, and Erik Pieters was then left bloodied by a more serious, albeit accidental, collision as Pedro's boot connected with the Stoke defender's face.
The visitors broke away soon after with a move that finished disappointingly as Ramires poked wide, and Chelsea's ex-Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic got down to push away a shot by the Potters' former Blues man Glen Johnson.
Chelsea started to dominate possession but could not convert it into a breakthrough, with Jack Butland doing well to palm a looping Ramires shot over and then pulling off a fine save with his foot to keep out a Costa strike, either side of the striker just failing to meet Hazard's delivery across the face of goal.
The breakthrough for Stoke came when Shaqiri fed Johnson, his ball was helped on by Walters and it fell to Arnautovic, who volleyed in.
Stoke breathed a sigh of relief as Pedro's curler struck the woodwork and Hazard fired across goal and wide. It got worse for the Blues as Chelsea substitute Loic Remy hurdled the out-rushing Butland and stumbled as he tried to shoot, missing the target with no penalty being given.