Antonio Conte jokes: 'For me Gary can play also as a centre-forward'
STOKE -- Antonio Conte joked that he might consider playing Gary Cahill as a striker after the England international netted a vital late goal in Chelsea's 2-1 win over Stoke City to preserve the Blues' 10-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
Cahill reacted quickest to an Erik Pieters mistake to lash a shot beyond Lee Grant with three minutes remaining at the bet365 Stadium, having earlier conceded a penalty with a push that allowed Jonathan Walters to cancel out Willian's clever free-kick opener in the 13th minute.
The goal was Cahill's fourth of the season and his 23rd in total since joining Chelsea from Bolton Wanderers in January 2012, and after the match a smiling Conte said: "For me Gary can play also as a centre-forward. He has a good quality, acrobatic qualities, and he's very strong during set-pieces.
"I'm pleased for him because we conceded the penalty because the referee saw a little push. Then he thought to find the solution to score the second goal to win."
Cahill's strike prompted wild celebrations from Conte in the Chelsea dugout. The Italian remains utterly single-minded in his determination to secure the Premier League title, and was unaware until informed by journalists of Arsenal's defeat to West Brom earlier on Saturday.
Asked if he felt Chelsea might have been able to afford a draw against Stoke due to their commanding lead, Conte replied: "Now we have to take 21 points to be sure to win the title. Otherwise we risk to lose. We have to think always positive and game by game.
"I think this must be Chelsea's mentality. Don't forget, Chelsea is a great team and must play always to win. For this reason when you play in this type of team you must have, you must build, you must work on this type of aspect.
"Now there is an international break, a bit of rest for [some] players, the other players go to play with the national teams. Then we start in Cobham. It's important to be focused, because we have two games at home against Crystal Palace and Manchester City.
"When you want to win the league it's important not to drop points -- above all when you play against not top teams, but medium or bottom teams. It's important to keep continuity in the results and the name of this is mentality. Winning mentality. You must have this."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.