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Willian, Chelsea make it lucky 13 vs. Stoke City

LONDON -- Here are three points from Chelsea's 4-2 win against Stoke City in the Premier League.

1. Chelsea keep on winning

Chelsea tie a record and continue to look like they will have no equal in this title race. This Willian-fired 4-2 win over Stoke City meant Antonio Conte's side matched Arsenal's 2002 record of 13 successive league wins in a single season and keeps them well clear at the top.

It was all the more impressive because it just another quality to their team: the ability to keep going, despite a game in which they were twice pegged back and their game plan was twice disrupted.

Chelsea actually conceded as many goals in this match -- and in the second half alone -- as they have in all 12 previous games of this run. Despite that, they kept doing the same thing: winning.

It was Willian who was most influential in sealing that victory, but Gary Cahill initiated the chaos. On 34 minutes, he powered in a header from a set-piece as Chelsea finally got going after a slow start. They started the second half just as sluggishly, though, allowing Bruno Martins Indi to equalise straight after halftime from Peter Crouch's diversion of Charlie Adam's free kick. Chelsea responded superbly to that and penned Stoke back in their box with the ball pinballing across, until Willian eventually made it 2-1.

This time, though, the lead lasted only seven minutes. With Chelsea suddenly looking surprisingly slack at the back, N'Golo Kante and Cahill fell over in the face of excellent touches by Crouch and Bojan Krkic before Mame Diouf squared for Crouch to finish from close range.

The drama still hadn't finished. Within mere seconds, Willian had fired in what was probably the goal of the game, blasting the ball high into the top corner after Cesc Fabregas had slipped him through. That was three goals in eight minutes and still one more to come, as Diego Costa embarrassed Martins Indi before firing home.

Out of such chaos, it was still another three points for Chelsea. Another win at Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday, and they will have broken the record for most successive wins in a single season. The question is whether anything will break in this team soon.

2. Willian steals the show

For all the praise the spine of Costa, Eden Hazard, Kante and David Luiz has received in Chelsea's winning run, all paled next to the most influential player on the day: Willian.

Making up for a rare lack of goals at key moments from his side's primary attackers, Willian scored twice, with those goals also covering for rare errors from that usually solid backline.

It wasn't just that he scored, however. It was also how the thrust to his play drove so many counterattacks and gave the Chelsea attack such life in the moments when it wasn't as alert as in previous games.

On 75 minutes, central to so much again, Willian once more took the ball from deep to power forward, but this time, he played a supreme cross-field ball onto Hazard's foot. It was the confidence of a player on form.

On 57 minutes, he showed the opportunism necessary to fire in Chelsea's second from close range. On 65, he showed how to mix precision with power as he hammered a strike into the roof of the net. It was a strike of impressive purity.

It also reflected what a fine tactical option Willian had been throughout this game. One of the smarter aspects of this win from Chelsea, amid all the chaos, was how they used Stoke's own three-at-the-back against them. Throughout the second half, realising where Mark Hughes' side were vulnerable, Chelsea's attackers kept trying angled balls nicked just to the side of the outside centre-half, where Willian tended to be and where he was so dangerous.

3. Stoke try but can't solve Chelsea riddle

Mark Hughes became the latest manager to try something different against Chelsea and fail -- but in fairness, he came closer than most. His approach certainly made Chelsea panic more than usual.

Stoke tried to directly respond to Chelsea by going three at the back from the off, and it initially worked well. They were the better team for most of the first 20 minutes.

With Conte's side content to let Stoke have the ball, the away team probably made more progress than they would have liked. Joe Allen was at the centre of everything in the opening spell, spraying the ball out wide for Stoke's wing-backs to suddenly become attacking wingers. From there, they would swing in crosses, looking to maximise their height advantage. There were already signs it could prove effective in the first half, as a number of in-swinging balls aimed for Crouch's head fully tested the Chelsea defence.

It eventually paid off, but in an even more direct way -- a set-piece. Just after halftime, Adam sent a ball toward Crouch on the far side of the box, he stayed high to head the ball across, and Martins Indi directed the ball past Thibaut Courtois.

From there, the game almost seemed to enter a period in which tactics barely mattered, especially shown amid the free-for-fall of Crouch's equaliser, but in the end, it was tactics that won the day.

Conte belatedly realised how to use Stoke's three-at-the-back against them.

That should not be a mark against Hughes, though. He made the leaders work much harder than most.