LONDON — Willian scored twice as leader Chelsea overcame Stoke 4-2 to equal an English Premier League record for 13 straight wins in a single season.
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Bruno Martins Indi and Peter Crouch struck for Stoke to cancel out goals by Gary Cahill and Willian. But Willian struck for a second time moments after Crouch’s 64th-minute equalizer and Diego Costa netted a fourth.
“After the second goal it wasn’t easy to go and have the good reaction, to show the great character, above all after 12 wins in a row,” Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said. “When you win a lot, there is a great danger to be satisfied, to be relaxed, to think, ‘OK, but we won a lot in the past, now if arrive the draw, if we don’t lose, if we don’t win, it’s not important.’ No.
“My players showed me great will, great will to fight, great will to win, great will to take this great achievement for us. I’m pleased for them and they deserved this. I’m their coach, but they deserved this.”.
Chelsea is six points clear of Liverpool, which beat Manchester City 1-0.
Arsenal was the last team to win 13 matches in a row in a solitary campaign in 2002. The Gunners extended that landmark to 14 the following season and Chelsea can match that streak at Tottenham on Wednesday.
“Now it’s not easy after 13 wins in a row you face teams that want to beat you, not only to take three points but for many reasons,” Conte said. “It’s more difficult. We must know this. (But) when you have these type of players you can go to sleep happy.
“This first half of season was incredible for us. I think it’s very difficult to repeat this run, because we played 19 games. To win 16 games, draw one game and lose two games is a great achievement for us.”.
Chelsea’s defense will have to be tighter at White Hart Lane. Saturday’s win was the first time Chelsea conceded more than one goal in a game since the Sept. 24 loss at Arsenal.
Chelsea’s 34th-minute opener came when Cesc Fabregas’ corner was met by Cahill, who rose highest to head into the net.
Stoke leveled a minute into the second half through Martins Indi. Chelsea responded, stepping up the intensity and Stoke goalkeeper Lee Grant was beaten again in the 57th. Victor Moses centered for Eden Hazard, who laid the ball off for Willian to power the ball into the bottom corner.
The lead lasted less than seven minutes, with Mame Diouf crossing for Crouch to tuck in the leveler.
Once again Chelsea retaliated, going ahead for a third time when Fabregas fed Willian to emphatically finish at the near post. And Costa marked his return from suspension by out-muscling Martins Indi before drilling in his 14th goal of the season.
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