Gary Cahill smashed Chelsea 13 points clear at the top of the Premier League with a late winner at Stoke City this afternoon as the Blues overcame a rugged and aggressive home side 2-1.
The Londoners took the lead through the wizardry of Willian’s right boot as his surprise free-kick bamboozled goalkeeper Lee Grant on 13 minutes, tucking the ball inside the near post.
A penalty on 32 minutes, converted by Johnathan Walters after Cahill pushed him in the back gave the home side some hope but the Chelsea skipper made amends for his needless foul by lashing home on 84 minutes from close range as the Blues dominated the second half.
Seven more wins for the Blues from the remaining 10 games and it’s season over.
The early stages of the game lacked quality as far as the football was concerned but Diego Costa was at the centre of the niggles, falls to the ground and general roughhousing with whoever he happened to be close to.
Ryan Shawcross and Bruno Martins Indi to name but two.
But on 13 minutes, Marco Alonso won a free kick on the left. Up stepped Willian who inched the perfect angled right-footed shot between the near post and the desperately diving goalkeeper Lee Grant to put the league leaders into the lead.
Costa eventually fond his way into Anthony Taylor’s book for dissent on 17 minutes. The Brazillian Spain striker fed up with the aggressive, if fair treatment meted out to him.
A superb save by Grant on the half-hour thwarted Alonso after Victor Moses’s defence-splitting flick allowed the wing-back to ghost clear into the six-yard area and thump a vicious right-footer which Grant did well to get his body in the way of and parry the effort clear of goal.
Stoke thought they had equalised on 32 minutes when Martins Indi headed home from close range. But the linesman saw a foul by Saido Berahino on Cesar Azpilicueta and ruled it out.
But Stoke would not be outdone and were given a penalty on 37 minutes when referee Taylor saw a needless nudge by Gary Cahill on Jonathan Walters as Thibaut Courtois was coming out to collect a high ball. The striker took the spot kick himself and lashed it past Courtois to level the score.
Pedro had a fine chance to restore the lead, but sliced his right-footer high over Grant’s crossbar.
There were no changes of personnel at half -time.
The first effort of the restart fell to Alsonso, But after racing onto Kante’s through ball, his effort was deflected for a corner.
The Stoke crossbar was next to be rattled on 65 minutes from a brilliant left-footed curler by Alonso from 25 yards out after Pedro had been hacked down. Grant was then quick to get down and snaffle a Nemanja Matic.
Cesc Fabregas was brought on with 20 minutes left on the clock in an attempt to inspire a goal. Moses was the one to come off.
Grant then produced an even better save, turning round then goal for a corner a zinger of a shot by Pedro.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek entered the fray on 82 minutes with ineffectual Matic making way.
Chelsea pressure finally paid off with four minutes left with Gary Cahill smashing the ball high into the Stoke net.
Kurt Zouma replaced Pedro as Antonio Conte decided to defend the 2-1 lead.
Beardsley was handled a second yellow for a foul on Fabregas and the red card as the game went worse for the home side.
Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso, Pedro, Costa, Willian
Subs Begovic, fabregas, Zouma, Ake, Loftus-Cheek, Batshuayi, Chalobah
Stoke City, Grant, Bardsley, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Pieters, Ramadan, Allen, Cameron, Arnautovic, Walters, Berahino,
Subs, Given, Muniesa, Whelan, Afellay, Adam, Diouf, Crouch
Referee: Antony Taylor