March 19, 2017

Conte: Tactical Gamble Paid Off  (Sky Sports)

Antonio ConteAntonio Conte admits he was relieved to see his "risky" formation change pay off as Chelsea left it late to beat Stoke on Saturday.

Willian's early free-kick was cancelled out by Jonathan Walters before half-time at the Bet365 Stadium and the two sides looked set to share the points before Conte turned his back on his trusted 3-4-3 set-up.

Unwilling to settle for a draw despite Chelsea's 10-point lead at the top of the Premier League, Conte replaced wing-back Victor Moses with midfielder Cesc Fabregas with 20 minutes remaining, reverting to a back four.

The gamble paid dividends as Gary Cahill scored a winner three minutes from time to send the Blues 13 points clear ahead of Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool playing on Nissan Super Sunday.

"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 beat Chelsea at home last season as the Blues struggled under Jose Mourinho, but under Conte they have dropped points in just three games since September and are on a five-game winning run.

Mark Hughes' Stoke approached the contest believing they could deny Conte's side victory but 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, this 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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