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Chelsea 13 points clear after late Cahill victor at Stoke

Chelsea 13 points clear after late Cahill victor at Stokeā€

In the wake of Monday's hard-fought FA Cup win over United, Conte said he hoped Chelsea would always face teams that "want to beat us playing football".

The Blues were on top throughout the second half but struggled to break through, with Marcos Alonso coming closest when he sent a free-kick crashing onto the bar, but Cahill made amends for giving away the penalty to secure three points late on.

Willian had given them the lead here with a free-kick only for the Potters to draw level through Jonathan Walters' penalty in a fiery contest that featured Diego Costa as its chief antagonist, though it was Phil Bardsley who saw red in stoppage time.

"For sure it was an important win", Conte said.

Antonio Conte refused to accept it was Chelsea's title to lose after they marched 13 points clear at Stoke.

It ultimately sealed their 19th win in their last 22 league games, with Stoke's misery completed when Bardsley received his marching orders in the dying seconds after receiving a second yellow card for a foul on Cesc Fabregas. He's got six Premier League goals this season, his best ever return, and today was a good demonstration of his importance to Chelsea.

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The Stoke keeper was expecting a cross into the middle, but Willian instead curled a shot towards the near bottom corner from the left flank and Grant was unable to keep it out despite reaching the ball in time. Stoke are ninth in the Premier League for a reason and Chelsea departed the bet365 Stadium pitch tired in the knowledge that their 22nd victory of this remarkable campaign was also one of the hardest to earn.

Chelsea: Courtois 6, Azpilicueta 7, Luiz 7, Cahill 7, Moses 6, Kante 6, Matic 6, Alonso 6, Pedro 6, Costa 6, Willian 7.

The manager insists that Hazard can deal with the physicality of the Premier League.

"At this point of the season to have 10 points - now we have 13 points - but I like to think, I don't like but I put that our opponent could win tomorrow and come back against to 10 points". It's debatable whether Stoke's approach met his standards, but the Premier League leaders have rarely been pushed so close this season.

However, the assistant's flag went up - possibly for offside against Saido Berahino, who could also have been punished for a push on Pedro.



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