Mourinho lavishes praise on players
LONDON — Jose Mourinho believes Chelsea’s gritty 1-0 win at QPR had all the hallmarks of champions-elect.
Mourinho’s side moved seven points clear at the top of the Premier League after Cesc Fabregas’s 88th minute goal settled a scrappy west London derby at Loftus Road.
The Blues need 12 more points from their remaining seven matches to be certain of claiming the English crown for the first time since 2010 and, although they were well below their best on Sunday, Mourinho was encouraged by the way they emerged unscathed from a tricky test.
It took a poor clearance from QPR goalkeeper Robert Green, seized on by Eden Hazard and eventually converted by Fabregas, to give Chelsea a win that even Mourinho admitted was probably more than they deserved.
But it was the way Chelsea kept their composure in such a heated contest that impressed Mourinho and reminded him of the way his previous title-winning teams, at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, all found a way to triumph recently and his replacement Eliaquim Mangala has done nothing to justify his 32 million-pound arrival in August.
Meanwhile, United manager Louis van Gaal proclaimed that his side were once again the biggest team in the city after Sunday’s overwhelming win.
City had won the four previous encounters between the teams, drubbing United 4-1 and 3-0 last season en route to the title, but that sequence came to a juddering halt at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Victory, five months on from a 1-0 loss in the reverse fixture, left United four points clear of City in third place in the Premier League, prompting Van Gaal to assert that his men had reclaimed the Manchester throne.
“We are at this moment four points ahead, so that is a fact,” he said when asked if United were once again the dominant team in the city.
“You are playing for the fans and at the beginning of the season it was not so fantastic to be a United fan, because we have started 11 matches with 13 points and still they have supported us.
“And now, this week especially, they can go on the streets, hat up, and say, ‘We are this year the better team, because goal average is in our favour (over the two derby games).’”
Young and Fellaini, much maligned under in unpromising situations.
“Every time I was a champion I remember a couple of matches that my teams won in the last minute. It is like a little light that shines for the team that will be champions,” Mourinho said.
“It is difficult to play here, the pitch is small and 1.30pm is maybe not the best time to go into the game with intensity.
“They gave us a difficult match but we kept good emotional control and never lost balance. If we have to go home with 0-0 it’s OK, but we kept going and got the goal. One point would have been fair but we played well under the circumstances.”
With crucial showdowns against Manchester United and then Arsenal looming over the next two weeks, Chelsea’s refusal to settle for a point could prove invaluable as it gives them more margin for error when they face their title rivals.
Asked if Chelsea’s victory would be a psychological blow to secondplaced Arsenal, who had closed the gap to four points the previous day, Mourinho responded by demanding Van Gaal’s predecessor David Moyes, have been instrumental to United’s current run of six straight league wins and the Dutchman hailed both players’ contributions.
As well as scoring from an Ander Herrera cross, Young set up headed goals for Fellaini and Smalling, prompting Van Gaal to describe his performance as “fantastic”.
“He was our best player. I am very happy for him,” added the United manager, whose side visit leaders Chelsea this weekend.
“Ashley has always played with me. Fellaini also, because he was a lot of times injured, but he is from day one the player who is always doing what I ask.
“You can say not always very good, but never bad. That’s also very important for a manager, that a player who always gives a certain level of performance.”
Meanwhile, deflated City manager Manuel Pellegrini refused to discuss his future at the Etihad Stadium, telling reporters: “I am not talking about my position. It is not important.”
Asked if he was concerned about his side dropping out of the Champions League places, Pellegrini replied: “We are concerned to try to win the next game.
“Losing these two games (against United and Crystal Palace), we are now in fourth position, but United and Arsenal have to play that his team be given respect for sitting joint top or top of the table since the opening day of the season.
“I don’t know if it hurts Arsenal or not but it is not normal for a team to be top of the table in August and arrive in April still top of the league,” Mourinho said.
“That is the team that deserves the credit. Other teams have had good runs, but we have had a good run since August.”
While Mourinho was right to praise his players’ steely focus, the Blues were indebted to Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who made amends for some recent mistakes with two fine saves to deny Charlie Austin and Matt Phillips.
Courtois gifted Hull a goal in Chelsea’s win at the KC Stadium and was caught off his line by Charlie Adam’s 65-yard wonder-goal for Stoke last week.
“I said after Hull and Charlie Adam he needed to give us a couple of points. We needed a couple of saves and he did it,” Mourinho added.
The defeat was cruel on QPR, who against Chelsea.
“We have 18 points more to play for, so we must not be dramatic. We have to play now two games at home. We must try to recover as soon as we can from this defeat and try to win the next game.” Fixtures April 18: Stoke v Southampton, Everton v Burnley, Leicester v Swansea, Crystal Palace v West Brom, Chelsea v Manchester United.
April 19: Manchester City v West Ham, Newcastle v Tottenham. — Reuters remain tw o points from safety, and manager Chris Ramsey was left to rue one lapse in concentration that ruined an otherwise immaculate gameplan.
“I’m disappointed with the manner we let the goal in. I’m not blaming Rob. It wasn’t his best kick but we had plenty of time to defend, and for the first time in the game we didn’t deal with it,” he said.
“I would have been more accepting if they had done something clever to pull a goal out of the bag. We could have defended miles better. All that running that everybody did has gone to waste. Saying that, the players were fantastic and hopefully that performance against a top team has given everybody hope.” — AFP
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.