Chelsea brush ‘twatgate’ - and Norwich - aside to remain top
Premier League leaders ignore Ashley Cole controversy while second-placed Man City beat Sunderland
CHELSEA brushed aside Norwich 4-1 to maintain their lead at the top of the Premier League table yesterday. Despite the twatgate saga involving Ashley Cole, the Blues romped to an easy victory at Stamford Bridge despite going one down to a Grant Holt strike.
Norwich’s 11th minute goal spurred the hosts into action and by half-time, goals from Fernando Torres, Frank Lampard and Eden Hazard had given Chelsea an unassailable lead.
Branislav Ivanovic struck a fourth in the final quarter as Chelsea moved to 19 points, four ahead of Manchester City in second place.
Manager Roberto Di Matteo later saluted the mental resilience of his side, applauding his players’ ability to ignore the off-field furore surrounding Cole and John Terry’s race row. “The results are telling me we are able to blank things out and can focus on our aim, our target and job - to win games,” said Di Matteo. “It is proving how professional the group is and how well we have responded.”
Asked if he felt the controversy had created a ‘them and us’ attitude in the Chelsea squad, RDM replied: “I wouldn’t say it is a siege mentality... that is not what we feel or what is happening with us. We are concentrating on our strengths and we try to win games with the players we have and our philosophy."
Manchester City hardly broke sweat in their 3-0 win at home to Sunderland once Aleksandar Kolarov had put the reigning champions one up after five minutes. Second half goals from Sergio Aguero and James Milner sealed the victory and extended Sunderland’s winless streak on the road to 11 Premier League matches.
“I'm happy because our performance in general was really good,” said City boss Roberto Mancini, whose side have won just two of their last seven competitive matches. “We are disappointed defensively this season but we are looking strong now.”
Arsenal moved up to fifth with a 3-1 win away at West Ham, a match marked by a first Premier League goal for Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman has struggled for form ever since his arrival in the summer, but after 303 minutes without a Premier League goal he finally found the net for the Gunners just before half-time.
Giroud’s effort cancelled out that of Mohamed Diame’s earlier effort for the Hammers, but in the second-half it was all Arsenal as the visitors’ midfield dominated. Theo Walcott, on as a substitute for Gervinho, made it 2-1 for the Gunners on 77 minutes and the impressive Santi Cazorla then added a third.
"It's a delight to see what he does on the pitch,” said Arsene Wenger when asked about Cazorla’s performance. “I hope every young football player in England watches him.”
And the Arsenal boss reiterated his belief that his squad are on the brink of becoming a real force in the Premier League. “We started with a lot of questions raised about the team,” explained Wenger. “We have now played seven games and the belief in the squad is that we have a chance. Of course we now need to do it week after week. The spirit and quality are there. It is about how consistent we are now.”
In other results, West Bromwich Albion moved up into fourth spot with a 3-2 win against struggling QPR. The defeat leaves Rangers at the foot of the table and manager Mark Hughes did his best to put a brave face on the result. "What we can deduce is that we're good enough, but we have to earn the right to stay in this league and we have to do it quickly," said the QPR boss. "We have to give ourselves opportunities to win matches and at the moment we're not doing that.”
In other results Swansea and Reading fought out a 2-2 draw at the Liberty Stadium and Everton slipped down into third spot after being held to a similar scoreline by lowly Wigan. It had looked like the Toffees would be leaving Wigan without a point but Leighton Baines converted a penalty three minutes from time to give them a share of the points.