Gary Cahill scored a last-gasp winner as Chelsea defeated Stoke City 2-1 in a fiery encounter to open a 13-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
Antonio Conte’s men, who were missing their talismanic winger Eden Hazard, began in fine fashion as Willian fired them ahead after only 13 minutes with a brilliant free-kick after Marcos Alonso was fouled by Marko Arnautovic around five yards from the right-hand side of the box. A cross was the most likely shot from the free-kick but the Brazil international had other ideas as he sent the ball past Lee Grant.
Grant made amends for his earlier mistake by denying Alonso in the 30th minute. Four minutes later, the ball was inside the Chelsea goal but it was correctly ruled out for Saido Berahino’s push on Cesar Azpilicueta. The Potters soon equalised when Jonathon Walters went down after being pushed by Cahill and he made no mistake from the resulting penalty.
The Blues began the second half in a dominant fashion too with Alonso being stopped by a terrific Phil Bardsley challenge and David Luiz’s 40-yard free-kick almost catching Grant out. Alonso again came close to scoring but his 25-yard effort struck the crossbar. The busy Potters goalie did well to keep his team in the tie by making a brilliant one-handed stop at the near post to deny Pedro. But the visitors were finally rewarded for their perseverance when Cahill scored the winner three minutes from time. The fiery contest ended with Bardsley getting the marching orders for a second bookable offence as he fouled Cesc Fabregas.
Here is how Twitter reacted to the match:
The fight in this team. Incredible. Every time you think things are looking bad they find a way, any way to win. Get in Chelsea
— Charlie Skillen (@charlieskillen) March 18, 2017
People that say horror movies are scary should try watching Diego Costa angry on a yellow card.
— Uber Chelsea FC 🏆 (@UberCheIseaFC) March 18, 2017
Somewhere in the Stoke dressing room there must be a detailed rota for fouling Diego Costa because they've all had a turn now
— Sam Wallace (@SamWallaceTel) March 18, 2017
Chelsea 19pts ahead of Arsenal in mid-March.
This count as 'failure', @OllieHolt22?
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) March 18, 2017
Cahill scores a late one for Chelsea and Antonio Conte swings from the roof of the dugout.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) March 18, 2017
QUALITY: Antonio Conte celebrates Gary Cahill's late winner at Stoke. 😂👏 pic.twitter.com/WK9ajLg0JR
— SPORF (@Sporf) March 18, 2017
— Garry Hayes (@garryhayes) March 18, 2017
Gary Cahill is a rich man's Sergio Ramos.
— #4. (@ThatMunichNight) March 18, 2017