The Chelsea manager, Antonio Conte, whose side is now 13 points clear at the top of the Premier League with 10 matches to play, said he thought Stoke had deliberately targeted Costa in order to draw a reaction. This was just the second Premier League game Hazard has missed this season. After Marcos Alonso was fouled by Marco Arnautovic, Chelsea were awarded a free-kick at an acute angle.
"I think I have to put my hand up because I made a mistake with that pass to Lee", said Pieters in a post-match interview.
Nonetheless, despite there still being much to play for over the coming months, speculation is already building about who Conte could look to sign in the summer, and two Everton stars are the latest to be linked with Stamford Bridge, namely Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku.
Costa was frequently in collision with his players - principally Ryan Shawcross and Bruno Martins Indi - and was booked for simulation in the first half after often going down claiming a foul. The fact that they had 64 percent possession and 20 shots will annoy Conte when he watches a replay of the game. The response was a yellow card and Conte sent Michy Batshuayi to warm up as an attempt to remind his striker to focus on testing Grant instead. Costa was far more restrained and refined after the break, holding up play intelligently and providing a platform for teammates to shine.
"Now there are 10 games to go, I'd like to think that now we need to take 21 points to be sure to win the league but for sure it's an important win".
- Eight of Willian's last 19 goals for Chelsea in all comps have been from direct free-kicks.
Along with Kante he's a front runner for the Premier League Player of the Season award, having rediscovered his form following a dip past year under Jose Mourinho. It's debatable whether Stoke's approach met his standards, but the Premier League leaders have rarely been pushed so close this season. Could be considered unlucky when Walters went to ground far too easily under his "challenge." the incident that led to the penalty from which the Stoke man scored. The defender's lion-hearted performance epitomised the never-say-die spirit of Antonio Conte's side.
87' - GOAL! Stoke 1-2 Chelsea (Cahill).