Mour­inho lav­ishes praise on play­ers

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lesotho

© PressReader. All rights reserved.