STOKE CITY 1 (Walters 38)
CHELSEA 2 (Willian 13, Cahill 88)
- Gary Cahill fires home 88th minute winner to break Potters hearts.
- Jonathan Walters’ penalty levelled for the hosts after Willian opener.
- Bruno Martins Indi sees goal controversially disallowed in first-half.
- Phil Bardsley to serve a one-match ban following stoppage time sending off.
GARY CAHILL slammed home a last-gasp winner to break Stoke City hearts at the bet365 Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The England international powered home from close range to seal all three points for the Blues after the home side failed to adequately deal with Pedro’s in-swinging corner.
It was a cruel blow for Mark Hughes’ men, who looked on course to claim a thoroughly deserved draw against the runaway Premier League leaders, and now seemingly certain Champions.
The hosts had Jonathan Walters to thank for what appeared to be a share of the spoils after he rifled home from the spot kick after Willian had opened the scoring for the visitors in the 13th minute.
The Brazilian international was included in the starting line-up at the expense of the injured Eden Hazard, and he made an immediate impression by curling home from 20-yards, catching Lee Grant off-guard.
It was a far from idyllic start for the Potters, who came into the encounter on the back of an eight-game unbeaten run on home soil and having taken a point from their last outing at Manchester City.
To their credit though, Stoke soon began to ask questions of the visitors with Marko Arnautovic and Ramadan proving menaces out wide.
It was Bruno Martins Indi who thought he had levelled for the hosts when he headed home from eight-yards, only for the linesman to flag for offside.
Referee Anthony Taylor deliberated with his assistant before concurring that Saido Berahino, who was in a slightly offside position, interfered with play sufficiently to chalk the effort off.
Hughes was livid, so were his players and of course the supporters, but thankfully they didn’t have long to digest that frustration as the scoreline was soon after back on level-pegging.
Walters, who was clumsily pushed down by Cahill inside the box, stood up and rifled the ball into the roof of the net from the penalty spot to send the majority of the supporters inside the stadium into delirium.
The interval came at a good time for the visitors with Stoke looking the more determined and likely side to fashion a third goal of the afternoon.
After the break there was a response from the Londoners, with Diego Costa forcing Grant into a superb save down to his left whilst the impressive Martins Indi tracked back well to thwart Pedro, who was closing in on the City goal.
At the other end Ramadan very nearly picked out Joe Allen inside the penalty area after dazzling Cesar Azpilicueta with some clever footwork.
Hughes opted to introduce Mame Diouf for Saido Berahino midway through the second half, and whilst his pace was a threat on the break, it was the Senegalese’s defensive work that was most prominent during his spell on the field.
He did well to double up with Phil Bardsley and stop Victor Moses in his tracks on the edge of the penalty area whilst he leaped highest inside his own 18-yard box to snuff out Pedro’s centre that looked set to land at the feet of the waiting Costa.
Marcos Alonso very nearly restored Chelsea’s lead with a stunning free-kick that cannoned back off the bar as the Blues pressed forward to win the game.
Egyptian international Ramadan may feel he could have done better than slicing horribly wide from a relatively acute angle following a sustained spell of pressure at the opposite end of the field.
Such was the home side’s dominance during the final 10 minutes Conte added fresh legs in midfield to deal with the tenacity of Cameron and Allen, introducing Ruben Loftus Cheek and Cesc Fabregas from the bench.
With three minutes to go, and with the clash seemingly certain to end all square, disaster struck for the hosts as an incisive counter attack culminated in a Chelsea corner, one that resulted in Cahill smashing home the winner and extending his side’s lead at the summit of the table to 13 points.
For the Potters, it was late and cruel heartache, and not for the first time against this opposition.
Further salt was rubbed into the wounds five minutes into additional time when referee Taylor adjudged Bardsley to have recklessly caught Fabregas on the knee, a challenge that earned him a second caution of the afternoon.