Blues stoke up aura with 13th win in a row

Chelsea striker Diego Costa (above) smashing in his 14th Premier League goal of the season to put the Blues in front for a third time against Stoke City on Saturday.
Chelsea striker Diego Costa (above) smashing in his 14th Premier League goal of the season to put the Blues in front for a third time against Stoke City on Saturday. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Willian (above) scored Chelsea's second and fourth goals in the 4-2 win. The midfielder broke down in tears after his first goal - two months after the death of his mother.
Willian (above) scored Chelsea's second and fourth goals in the 4-2 win. The midfielder broke down in tears after his first goal - two months after the death of his mother.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Conte challenges Chelsea players to maintain perfect run ahead of trip to White Hart Lane

LONDON • Chelsea manager Antonio Conte claimed that he will "sleep happy" after his side made it to the turn of the year by equalling the English Premier League record for consecutive wins in a season.

Two goals from Willian and one apiece from Gary Cahill and Diego Costa ensured they claimed a 4-2 win over Stoke City and a 13th straight victory in the league.

Conte was especially pleased with the way Chelsea adapted to Stoke's style of play after the Peter Crouch-inspired visitors caused rare problems for them in defence.

"My players showed me they are able to adapt to a different type of football," said the Italian.

"When you win a lot there is a great danger to be satisfied and to think, 'Oh we won a lot, and if we don't win it's not important.'

"My players showed me their will to fight and to take great achievement. They deserved it.

"We faced a really good team and they played the long ball, which is very difficult to intercept and win second balls. It's not easy because after so many wins you face teams who want to beat you for many reasons and we must know this. But when you have these type of players you can go to sleep happy."

Chelsea were twice pegged back as Bruno Martins Indi cancelled out Cahill's header and then Crouch levelled again after Willian had scored.

Further goals from Willian and Costa sealed victory, with Conte having special words of praise for the former, who broke down in tears after his second goal, two months on from the death of his mother.

"I'm pleased for him, it's fantastic," said the Chelsea manager of the Brazilian. "We all know the period Willian passed through but today he played a really good game and I'm happy because he's a really good guy, he deserves this."

Chelsea can go one better in the record books if they beat London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who they visit on Wednesday.

Another victory at White Hart Lane would bring the Blues level with Arsenal for the league's all-time tally for consecutive wins - set over two campaigns - of 14.

Conte, whose name was chanted loudly by Chelsea fans throughout Saturday's game, added that the first half of the season had been "incredible" for his team but it would be hard to match it in the remaining 19 games.

"The second part of the season, for me, it will be very difficult for us," he said.

"We started the season as an underdog and (now) we have the light on Chelsea and we know this.

"We must work more and see, game by game, to find the right solution and carry on winning. It won't be easy but, today, we are very happy."

Stoke put up a brave fight but manager Mark Hughes felt defensive errors cost his side.

"I thought we did really well, to be honest," he said.

"We showed great courage in getting back on level terms twice. I felt at 2-2 that we were good value to get a draw out of the game.

"But we can't afford to keep on making mistakes as we are doing at the moment. We are guilty of making catastrophic errors and it's hurting us."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 02, 2017, with the headline 'Blues stoke up aura with 13th win in a row'. Print Edition | Subscribe