Belfast Telegraph

Chelsea boss insists it’s game on for Premier crown

By Ben Rumsby

Chelsea manager Andres Villas-Boas claimed that his team’s title challenge is ‘alive’ after they inflicted a first Premier League defeat of the season on Manchester City.

City were trying to open up a 13 point gap on the 2010 champions at Stamford Bridge last night, but Frank Lampard’s penalty winner seven minutes from time cut Roberto Mancini’s men’s lead at the top of the table to just seven points.

And that means Chelsea jump ahead of both Tottenham and Arsenal to go third in the table.

Just a week ago Villas-Boas was coming under increasing and constant pressure, but in the last seven days Chelsea have secured a place in the last 16 of the Champions League — something which City couldn’t manage — and now he has taken victory over big spending City.

“Our objective was to shorten the distance to the leaders today, and we managed to do exactly that,” said Villas-Boas.

“We don't take extra flavour from being the first team to beat them.

“We needed to do our job to get our challenge back on track and I think it's pretty much alive now.”

City looked to be in control of the game from early on when Mario Balotelli sprung the Chelsea offside trap to open the scoring inside the second minute.

Raul Meireles equalised before the break and Gael Clichy’s sending-off just before the hour mark was pinpointed as the game’s turning point.

For Mancini, it was a decision not to award City a first-half penalty after David Silva was tripped inside the box, that had actually changed the shape of the game.

“We can do nothing. We are at the top. We know it was possible to lose one game,” said Mancini.

“We hope after tonight we will draw or win the rest of the games.

“The Chelsea players after the game were really happy to beat us. That shows we are a top team at this moment and that all the teams want to beat us,and this is important for us.

“We worked well up to now and now we should continue.

“I hope that we can go another 14 games without losing.”

Lampard had been left on the bench by Villas-Boas, just like in last Tuesday night’s Champions League win over Valencia.

Amid suggestions that Villas-Boas is about to let Lampard leave Chelsea — and speculation linking him to Real Madrid — the England midfielder has revealed his determination to get back into the Chelsea team.

“I want to play and I'm at my best when I play, but now I'm in and out. I'm 33 — I understand that — but I want to keep playing regularly because I know I've got a lot to give,” said Lampard.

“I've got 18 months left and I'll be here that long, and I'll keep trying my hardest.”

Lampard stepped up to take the spot-kick — which was awarded following a handball offence against City defender Joleon Lescott in the area — and he admitted there was more relief than usual to see the ball fly into the net after a chequered recent record from 12 yards.

“I went out and missed a penalty a few weeks ago and the next one is always hard to take,” he said.

“You've got to be big enough and stand up and take them and they're the moments. I was very relieved when it hit the back of the net.”

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