LONDON // Roberto di Matteo praised his Chelsea players for once again "blanking out" a scandal engulfing the club after watching them thrash Norwich City 4-1 to storm four points clear at the top of the Premier League.
The European champions made it 19 points from 21 this season - their best start since 2006 - as they put the John Terry and Ashley Cole saga out of their minds for 90 minutes at Stamford Bridge.
Norwich did threaten a shock when Grant Holt justified his recall by firing them in front but they could not keep that lead as Fernando Torres, Frank Lampard, Eden Hazard and Branislav Ivanovic put them to the sword.
Chelsea have had plenty of experience playing amid off-field controversy during Terry and Cole's time at the club - but rarely when both have been at the centre of it.
That was exactly what they had to do yesterday after the damning verdict of an independent Englisg Football Association regulatory commission on Terry's racist abuse case and Cole's subsequent foul-mouthed Twitter outburst, directed at the FA.
Di Matteo said: "I think the results are telling us that we are able to blank things out surrounding us externally and that we could focus on what is our aim and target and job: to win football games.
"It's proven how professional the group is and how well they respond to it."
The Italian denied a siege mentality had taken hold at Stamford Bridge, where Terry and Cole were predictably feted as heroes.
"No, I don't think so," he said. "That's not what we feel or what is happening with us. We concentrate on our strength and we try to win games with the players that we have and with a football philosophy that we're aiming to play.
"At the moment, the team is in healthy form, we are creating lots of chances, we are scoring lots of goals, and with different goalscorers as well."
Asked whether his players saw football as a "release", he added: "I don't know but it seems that, at the moment, they are enjoying playing football."
Di Matteo said Cole would be punished by Chelsea. He is also likely to be disciplined by the FA.
"We've got a social media policy at the club and there's going to be a disciplinary process - action - against the tweet and that's how I'll leave it," he said.
* Press Association