Wednesday 23 August 2017

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte relieved to see gamble pay off in Stoke victory

Antonio Conte moved away from his 3-4-3 formation in the second half at Stoke
Antonio Conte moved away from his 3-4-3 formation in the second half at Stoke

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte revealed he rolled the dice with a formation tweak at Stoke because he was not content to leave the bet365 Stadium with just a draw.

Having started the weekend with a 10-point lead at the Premier League's summit, the Blues were on course for a share of the spoils against the Potters once Willian's free-kick was cancelled out by Jonathan Walters' penalty before half-time.

Conte was unwilling to settle for such an outcome, even with their huge advantage at the top, and brought on Cesc Fabregas with 20 minutes to go - replacing Victor Moses and altering his 3-4-3 system to a back four so he could accommodate his substitute in a central role.

The move paid dividends three minutes from time when skipper Gary Cahill lashed in a winner in a 2-1 triumph that brought a league championship in Conte's first season ever closer.

"It's not the first time - it happened also against Burnley," Conte said of his tactical tinkering.

"During the game, when you want to take more risks, when you want to try and take three points and not only one, you try to change.

"But, when you change, for sure there is a greater possibility to score the goal but also to concede a goal. You must know this and then sometimes I prefer to decide to risk it to try to take three points.

"In other situations I prefer to keep the result."

Stoke had won this fixture last term, beating a Jose Mourinho team that slipped to 16th in the table as a result, yet under Conte they are a different proposition.

This was the Blues' fifth straight win in all competitions and they have only dropped points in three games since September.

However, Mark Hughes' men approached the contest believing they could deny Conte's side victory and were ultimately undone by goalkeeper Lee Grant failing to keep out Willian's set-piece at the near post and Erik Pieters clearing only to Cahill at the death.

"We're disappointed, t his is a game we'd highlighted as one we thought we could get something out of," Grant told Stoke's official YouTube channel.

"The attitude and level of performance was really good. To come away from nothing on the back of a couple of mistakes for the goals - it's really disappointing."

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