x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Terry does not mind the gap

Beating United was 11th home win in a row and Chelsea captain targets to increase lead over Ferguson's men and Arsenal.

The Chelsea captain John Terry celebrates his winner as Manchester United run to the referee to protest at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
The Chelsea captain John Terry celebrates his winner as Manchester United run to the referee to protest at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
LONDON // A clenched fist and beaming smile said it all for John Terry. Beating Manchester United and staying on top meant everything to the Chelsea captain. He headed home the winning goal after 76 minutes, though the ball brushed off Nicolas Anelka and may yet be credited to the French striker, to open up a five-point gap over Arsenal and United at the top of the table.
There are signs that suggest the Premier League title could be back in Chelsea's grasp. Last season they took just four points from their six matches with title rivals United, Liverpool and Arsenal. This time they have ground out valuable wins against Liverpool and Sir Alex Ferguson's champions. Sunday's result also equalled a club record 11 successive wins at Stamford Bridge. Just like in 2006, when they set the original mark under Jose Mourinho, their stadium is a stronghold. Terry is keen to draw parallels from his side's previous title successes.
"It's encouraging to know that the two times we won the league we did it from the front," he said. "We got ahead and we led all the way. That could be key for us and fingers crossed we can do the same this time. We don't just want to maintain the five-point gap [over Arsenal and United], we want to increase that lead. "Arsenal are looking good: free-flowing and scoring goals like they always do. I'm still not ruling Liverpool out, but the way the three of us are playing at the moment I think it will be between us. United won't give up. We were in this position last year and the year before. There was no way we were giving up at this stage and United won't either."
Based on Sunday's performance, nor should they. United deserved better in what was a tactical stalemate littered with mistakes. Had Wayne Rooney been given more support up front the Chelsea backline and Petr Cech could have been tested far more. The England striker was still a nuisance, lashing one shot wide and forcing Cech into a fine save. Anelka was similarly inventive and only a flying one-handed stop by Edwin van der Sar stopped him scoring in the first half. He deserved a goal, even if his touch was faint after Terry glanced in Frank Lampard's 76th minute free-kick, leaving question marks over who gets the glory.
The goal incensed Ferguson and midfielder Darren Fletcher was adamant there was no foul that led to the free-kick while Wes Brown felt Didier Drogba impeded him when he might have stopped the ball. Fletcher blamed Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, for making him a target in the eyes of the official. Following their 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford in August Wenger branded United's tactics as "anti-football". While not referring to Fletcher directly, Wenger made inference to someone "who plays only to make fouls" and is "never punished".
"I think we are starting to see Mr Wenger's comments starting to work a little bit and influence referees," he said. "Managers and players can be criticised, but you cannot criticise referees. It was clearly not a foul. I knew at the time and I have watched it again on the replay. I back-heeled the ball, Ashley Cole just jumps up in the air, and the ref gives a foul." Fletcher added: "We need to keep performances like this going now. We have to raise our game and make sure these [refereeing] decisions are not affecting the game. We have to win without that."
akhan@thenational.ae