By Gary Watton
March 18 2017
By some strange coincidence, Willian and Cahill have scored in each Premiership fixture against Stoke City. The team from the Potteries act as a good barometer of Chelsea's stellar progress this season, because last year we lost twice and drew at home to them, so to win home and away against this potential banana skin is a marked improvement. Another peculiar piece of trivia is that all three goals in this hotly contested encounter were a result of set pieces.
Firstly, Willian (deputising for the absent Hazard) cheekily sneaked a free kick in at the near post when such a strike seemed unlikely. This provided the visitors with an early lead, but they were pegged back shortly before half time, after Gary Cahill conceded a soft penalty, which Jon Walters duly despatched.
In the second half, Marcus Alonso hit the woodwork with a fine left-footed effort from a free kick. However, just when two points looked likely to be dropped, the champions-elect profited from a corner kick. A David Luiz header wasn't properly cleared, and there was Gary Cahill to sweep home from close range. The captain might be error prone, but he does have a knack of redeeming himself with a healthy supply of goals from set pieces.
This second successive 2-1 away win in the Premiership proved that Chelsea can cope without the presence of the brilliant Eden Hazard, whilst for the second time in the last week, the Premiership favourites managed to win without relying on a goal from their Spanish armada quintet. Now ten points ahead with only ten matches left, it seems that Antonio Conte's team will have to try very hard to lose the Premiership race from this thoroughly advantageous position.
Stoke City 1 CHELSEA 2; half time: 1-1
CHELSEA goal scorers: Willian, Cahill
CHELSEA team: Courtois; Azpilicueta; Luiz; Kante; Matic; Cahill; Alonso; Moses; Costa; Pedro; Willian. Used substitutes: Fabregas, Loftus-Cheek, Zouma
CHELSEA leading scorers:
Costa eighteen goals
Hazard eleven goals (including two penalties)
Pedro eleven goals
Willian seven goals
Batshuayi five goals (including one penalty)
Cahill five goals
Fabregas five goals
Alonso four goals
Moses four goals