Cahill snatches late Chelsea victory at Stoke

Gary Cahill made up for conceding a penalty by scoring a late winner as Chelsea moved a step closer to the Premier League title with victory at Stoke.

Gary Cahill has scored four Premier League goals this season – two against Stoke

The England defender settled a heated encounter three minutes from time by sweeping home after Stoke failed to clear a Willian corner.

It sent Chelsea 13 points clear at the top with 10 games to play.

Chelsea striker Diego Costa was involved in a running battle with Stoke’s defenders – being booked himself and involved in incidents that saw Bruno Martins Indi and Phil Bardsley cautioned.

And the home side were reduced to 10 men in added time when Bardsley was sent off for a second bookable offence.

Willian had given Chelsea a first-half lead with an inswinging free-kick from the left that caught out keeper Lee Grant at his near post.

Martins Indi had a goal ruled out for a push by Saido Berahino on Cesar Azpilicueta, but the hosts drew level when Cahill was ruled to have pushed Jon Walters, who blasted in the penalty.

The visitors had nearly all the chances, with Marcos Alonso firing a free-kick against the bar and Pedro denied by a fine Grant save.

Even the absence of Eden Hazard with a muscle problem did not ultimately thwart Chelsea, whose relentless consistency has been extraordinary.

Hazard’s absence, only confirmed an hour before kick-off, was the major surprise as Antonio Conte’s side sought a fifth successive win.

Pedro proved a willing deputy, but it was two players who scored against Stoke in the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge who provided the goals.

Willian, who struck twice in a 4-2 win over Hughes’ side on New Year’s Eve, caught out Grant with a marvellous piece of quick thinking to whip his first-half free-kick inside the near post.

Cahill’s winner actually came after a decent five-minute spell of Stoke pressure as the game opened up in the closing stages.

The decisive goal was a tribute to the work ethic Conte has instilled in his players – coming from a corner won after substitute Ruben Loftus-Cheek harassed Erik Pieters into over-hitting a back pass.

Chelsea have now won 20 of their past 23 matches in all competitions, and look unstoppable.

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