Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas became the first non-British player to reach 100 Premier League assists as he set up Willian against Stoke City.
The Spaniard is also the fastest player to reach the milestone, taking just 293 appearances to reach 100 assists.
Fabregas is only the fourth player to have provided that many final balls for goals, putting him alongside Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard as the players to have achieved the feat.
However, the former Arsenal midfielder has a long way to go to catch assist leader Giggs, who set up 162 goals during his career with Manchester United.
Fabregas does not have the same distance to catch Rooney or Lampard, needing just one more assist to match the Red Devils captain, and three to overtake the former Chelsea and Manchester City midfielder.
The assist for Willian was Fabregas’s second provider of the day, teeing up Gary Cahill’s opener before Stoke equalised through Bruno Martins Indi.
In the same game, Eden Hazard got back among the assists, setting up Willian’s first goal. The assist was Hazard’s first in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge since May 2015.
Antonio Conte reacts to Chelsea win against Stoke City
Antonio Conte watched his side show tremendous character as we secured a 13th consecutive Premier League win against Stoke City at Stamford Bridge.
The visitors equalised twice in the second half but on both occasions our response was impressive, with Willian quickly restoring our advantage shortly after conceding. Diego Costa, back in the side after serving a one-match suspension, scored his 14th goal of the season to make it 4-2 and seal the victory.
It was a gutsy display by the Blues, who had taken a first-half lead thanks to Gary Cahill’s 34th-minute header, and while some of our play in the final third was slick and impressive, we also had to display strength and steel against a Stoke side who were a real threat throughout.
‘This game was very competitive and today is another example of when I talk about the difficulty of the Premier League,’ said Conte. ‘We faced a really good team and they played the long ball which is very difficult to intercept and win second balls. I’m pleased because my players showed me they are able to adapt to different types of football we face in the league.
‘My emotion depends on the type of game we face and the difficult of the game. When you take the lead and concede at the start of the second half, when it was clearly offside, it’s my fault because I train my defenders to keep the right line until the ref’s whistle. My players were very good, the linesman not so much. After the second goal it wasn’t easy to have a great reaction, especially after 12 wins in a row because when you win a lot there is a great danger to be satisfied and relax because you can think if you draw it’s not important. My players showed me a great will to fight to win, I’m pleased for them. I’m their coach but they deserve it.
‘They showed great character because it’s not easy when you take the lead and concede, and do it again. I was a player so I know this type of situation. You look at the clock and see you don’t have much time to win the game. My players were fantastic to take the lead again. We deserved to win the game. It’s not easy because after so many wins you face teams who want to beat you for many reasons and we must know this. When you have these type of players you can go to sleep happy.’
The Italian was delighted for Willian, who scored a brace
‘I’m pleased for him, it’s fantastic. We all know the period Wilian passed through but today he played a really good game with and without the ball. He scored two goals and I’m happy because he’s a really good guy, he deserves this. We tried to stay close to him but when this type of situation happens it’s not easy for any person. After a bad period which he’s overcome I’m pleased for him. He’s a fantastic player but more importantly for me he’s a fantastic man. He worked a lot in the game and he was very tired. I prefer to avoid him playing the last 10 minutes because when you are tired you risk injury.’
Conte explained why he took Cesc Fabregas off
‘Cesc took a yellow card and it was a moment of the game where I preferred to call Matic to help us deal with the long balls. I’m pleased with the performance, attitude and commitment of my players. I think they deserved it but now it’s important to continue.
‘In three days we have another tough game against Tottenham. Tonight we celebrate the New Year and tomorrow we start to think about Tottenham.’
He spoke about what he expects from the second part of the season
‘The first part of the season was incredible for us but it will be very difficult to repeat this run. The second part of the season will be very difficult for us. We started the season as underdogs and now we have the light on us, we must know this and work more to find the right solution to try to win in every game. Today we are very happy.’
Pat Nevin reacts to Chelsea’s 4-2 win over Stoke
Pat Nevin heaped praise on Willian and Chelsea for their resilient spirit after the Blues beat Stoke City 4-2 in a Premier League thriller at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues took the lead in the 34th minute thanks to Gary Cahill’s opener, but Bruno Martins Indi equalised for the visitors just after half-time.
Willian then fired Chelsea back in front in the 57th minute, but Peter Crouch then scored to make it 2-2 shortly after.
However, Willian then netted his second of the afternoon in the 65th minute to put Chelsea 3-2 up, before striker Diego Costa added a fourth to add gloss to the scoreline.
Speaking during BBC Sport’s live coverage of the came, Nevin said: “Stoke have worked so, so hard. They have always kept chasing, and at no stage have they ever looked like giving up.
“But it’s extraordinary how Chelsea seem to be able to turn it on just when they need to turn it on.
“After the second Stoke equaliser, Chelsea suddenly opted to step it up by a couple of gears.
“Eden Hazard took on a few players then Willian had it laid on a plate for him.”
The win was Chelsea’s 13th in a row in the Premier League and it left the west London side flying high at the top of the Premier League table heading into the new year.
The Blues are unbeaten since their 3-0 loss to Arsenal back in September.