Stoke 1-2 Chelsea: Champions elect stand tall

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  • Willian put Chelsea ahead
  • Walters equalized from PK spot
  • Cahill scores late winner
  • Chelsea 13 points clear

Premier League leaders Chelsea grabbed victory late on at Stoke City on Saturday, winning 2-1 at the bet365 Stadium.

They now need seven more wins to guarantee the Premier League title.

Antonio Conte‘s side went 1-0 up through Willian’s clever free kick but a penalty kick just before half time from Jonathan Walters leveled things up and that’s how things remained until Gary Cahill scored a late winner. Phil Bardlsey was sent off in stoppage time for a second yellow as Chelsea outlasted Stoke in a brutal battle.

The win stretches Chelsea’s lead atop the PL table to 13 points, while Stoke remain on 36 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

After an even start to the game Chelsea went ahead through a piece of quick thinking from Willian and a blunder from Lee Grant in Stoke’s goal.

Marko Arnautovic gave away a free kick wide on the left and with the box loaded with Chelsea players Willian decided to curl an effort towards the near post. He caught out Grant who couldn’t stop the ball squirming inside the near post. 1-0 to the PL leaders.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

Stoke hung in the game despite going behind yet Chelsea had a glorious chance to double their lead with their two wing backs combining. Victor Moses clipped in a ball to Marcos Alonso and he was brilliantly denied by Grant from close range. Big save.

Before the break real controversy arrived. First a corner was headed in by Bruno Martins-Indi but the goal was chalked off by the linesman for a push on Cesar Azpilicueta by Saido Berahino in what looked like the correct call.

Moments later Stoke were awarded a penalty kick as a cross was sent towards Walters and he looked to be tripped and pushed by Gary Cahill at the pivotal moment. Walters dusted himself off to slam home the PK and make it 1-1 but Chelsea had plenty of complaints about the PK being awarded.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

In the second half tempers continued to flare with Diego Costa the villain for most of the game and he was targeted by Stoke time and time again. The USMNT’s Geoff Cameron had a particularly heated battle with Costa as the U.S. national team star was named as Stoke’s man of the match for his all action display in central midfield to try and keep Chelsea’s attackers at bay.

David Luiz sent in a vicious dipping free kick which troubled Grant as Chelsea turned the screw and Stoke tired as full time edged closer.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score

Alonso sent a curling free kick against the crossbar with Grant beaten all ends up and the Spaniard couldn’t believe how close his effort came to putting Chelsea ahead.

Pedro was then denied by Grant who made a superb stop as Chelsea piled on the pressure in the closing stages and eventually it paid off.

Luiz’s header towards goal was half cleared by Erik Pieters and Cahill finished clinically to send the away fans wild. After that there was time for Costa to hit the post, Grant to deny substitute Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Bardsley to get a second yellow card for a foul on Cesc Fabregas.

Can anybody stop Chelsea now?

Totti’s loyalty one of the great soccer accomplishments ever

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During the prematch ceremony to celebrate the retirement of Roma legend Francesco Totti, there were fans crying. There were mascots crying. There were family members crying. There were players crying. The man himself was crying.

When 25 years with one club, no celebration can keep back the tears that naturally follow such a glorious career. Instead, an entire stadium paid tribute in one massive outpouring of emotion.

He was never flashy, he was never self-concerned, he never attracted the spotlight. All Francesco Totti did was give and give and give to his club. As the Italian’s career progressed, the game changed around him, with more and more money flowing through a landscape that gave players every reason to change teams as often as possible.

Through it all, Totti stayed put.

Roma’s Francesco Totti enters the field for his final salute to his fans after an Italian Serie A soccer match between Roma and Genoa at the Olympic stadium in Rome (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino).

At the end of it all, 25 years produced 618 league appearances, and 782 appearances overall. He scored 250 Serie A goals on the nose, and another 66 amid all other competitions. Those are just numbers, and Totti gave Roma far more than a laundry list of big numbers.

But for now, we focus on the bookkeeping, because even those are staggering. 250 league goals leaves Totti 2nd all-time in Italy, behind just Silvio Piola, but even the great 1938 World Cup champion never scored more than 143 league goals for a single club. Only three active players have over 100 league goals.

Totti racked up 618 Serie A appearances, his final one a 3-2 win over Genoa that earned Roma a Champions League group stage spot. That total is good for third all-time, one (for now) behind the great Gianluigi Buffon and 29 back of all-time leader Paolo Maldini. Maldini, who retired in 2009, also spent his entire career with one club in AC Milan, an equally commendable accomplishment. But in the modern game, 8 years adrift of Maldini’s playing days, the overwhelming temptations to move clubs make what Totti has done even more remarkable. Plus, he out-lasted Maldini’s career by a year (24 vs. 25 years active).

A note: only two players in the top 30 list in Serie A appearances are still active: Buffon, and 34-year-old Alberto Gilardino, who has played for 11 clubs in his career and is still 104 appearances back of Totti.

Past all the numbers stands a humble man who served one fanbase as loyally as humanly possible. Totti’s accomplishments are not only among the greatest in the history of the game, but it also may never be surpassed by anyone as long as we live.

Mascherano out 6 weeks, will miss Argentina vs. Brazil

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano will be out of action for six weeks to recover from a right knee injury.

[ MORE: Luis Enrique leaves Barca with feeling of accomplishment ]

Barcelona’s season is over, but the injury will rule out Mascherano from Argentina’s friendly against Brazil on June 9.

Mascherano injured his leg early in Saturday’s final of the Copa del Rey, when Barcelona beat Alaves 3-1 to defend its title for a third straight season.

He also cut his head during the collision with an Alaves player that produced the leg injury. He returned on crutches to join the team celebration.

Argentina doesn’t play its next World Cup qualifier until it plays Uruguay on Aug. 28.

Courtois aiming at new Chelsea contract after strong season

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There’s a wide range of players that were integral in Chelsea’s Premier League-winning season in 2016/17, but one of the most underrated was arguably goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

[ MORE: PL clubs may miss on Celtic’s Dembele and more transfer news ]

The Blues shot-stopper started all but two PL matches this past campaign, and now the Belgian international is seeking an extension with the London club.

“Contract talks haven’t opened but I am happy at Chelsea,” Courtois told Sky Sports after Chelsea’s loss to Arsenal at Wembley.

“I hope they reward me with a good contract, then there will be no doubt I will sign it.”

The 25-year-old keeper has been in at Stamford Bridge since arriving from Genk in 2011, but Courtois spent three seasons in Spain on a loan spell.

Courtois likened this PL campaign to his time on loan at Atletico Madrid, stating that while his side’s achievements in the league were everything Chelsea could have hoped for that there was still more the Blues could have done.

“It’s not a good feeling now,” Courtois told Chelsea’s official website. “I had the same thing in Spain when I won the league and then lost the Champions League.

“We wanted to end on a high, now we feel sad. Winning is everything so this is hard to face but we have to try to forget it.”

Francesco Totti on bench for final Roma match

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Sunday marks Francesco Totti’s final match with Roma after a stellar 24-year career, but the striker won’t be starting at the Stadio Olimpico.

[ MORE: Reus could miss at least six months after suffering knee damage ]

The 40-year-old was named to the bench for his club’s 2016/17 Serie A finale against Cagliari, with Roma needing a victory to capture second position in Italy’s top flight.

Napoli currently sits just one point behind the Giallorossi and hold a slight two-goal edge in goal differential, which could be a decisive factor in which side finishes second.

It would be quite odd for Roma to not give Totti playing time in his final outing, after a career that featured over 300 goals across all competitions for his hometown club.