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imageLONDON: Willian scored twice as Chelsea claimed a record-equalling 13th consecutive Premier League victory by beating Stoke City 4-2 on Saturday to provisionally move nine points clear at the summit.

Stoke twice hit back to level after falling behind at Stamford Bridge, but Willian's second goal and a late Diego Costa strike saw Chelsea match Arsenal's run of 13 wins within the same season from 2001-02.

Antonio Conte's side pulled nine points clear of second-place Liverpool, who host third-place Manchester City later in the day in an explosive climax to the calendar year.

Manchester United came perilously close to seeing their own winning streak end, only for late goals by star signings Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba to secure a 2-1 home win over Middlesbrough.

It was sixth-place United's fifth straight league win and took them to within a point of fourth-place Arsenal, who host Sam Allardyce's Crystal Palace on New Year's Day.

Chelsea welcomed back N'Golo Kante and Costa from suspension for the visit of Stoke and took a 33rd-minute lead when Gary Cahill headed in a corner from Cesc Fabregas.

Bruno Martins Indi equalised within seconds of kick-off in the second half, slotting in after Peter Crouch nodded down Charlie Adam's free-kick.

After Willian had restored the hosts' lead, lashing in from Eden Hazard's lay-off, Crouch drew Stoke level again in the 64th minute when he tapped in Mame Biram Diouf's cross.

But Willian put Chelsea back in front a minute later and Costa's late strike sealed victory.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Press), 2017

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