From his celebration immediately after the winning goal and then the final whistle against Stoke, it was clear Antonio Conte was delighted his players yet again found the way to victory. His words afterwards confirmed this.
A visit to Stoke’s stadium is a test for any team but it is one the Blues passed when Gary Cahill scored late on after a penalty had levelled up Willian’s free-kick opener.
‘For sure this is an important win,’ said Conte. ‘It is not easy at this point in the season to come here and play Stoke, a strong team with good quality and good tactical organisation, but we showed from the start to the end a great will to win and I am very pleased for this. My players were prepared to fight for this game because it was not easy.
‘We have played two games away against West Ham and Stoke and to win both is very important at this part of the season.’
Conte had special praise for the way Diego Costa continued to take the attack to the Potters despite being booked just 17 minutes in.
‘It is not simple to receive a yellow card after a few minutes but Diego has been showing this season, not only this game, to be very disciplined. He showed me great commitment and thought for the team, not only for himself, and I want this type of behaviour from my players. He was great in a difficult game and always created danger for Stoke’s defensive line.
‘It is normal for a team to try to make a player angry so he reacts and commits another foul, but the great news is Diego is showing to be a great player in this aspect because I know in the past he has sometimes not finished games.’
Eden Hazard was not available…
‘Hazard in the last training felt a bit of a problem in his calf and for this reason I preferred not to risk him.’
With 20 minutes to go and the game at 1-1, Conte opted to bring on Cesc Fabregas and switch shape to a back-four…
‘This is not the first time because it happened against Burnley. If you want to take more risk and try to take three points and not only one, you have to try to change but when you change, there is the great possibility to score a goal but also to concede and you must know this. Sometimes I try to risk and other times I prefer to keep the result.’