Belfast Telegraph

Chelsea look to increase lead at top

John Terry has warned Chelsea's title rivals they do not intend to merely sit on their five-point lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League.

The Blues led from the front when they clinched their last two titles in 2005 and 2006 and the England captain believes leading from the front could be the key again this time around.

Terry's 76th-minute header gave Carlo Ancelotti's side a five-point margin over Arsenal at the top of the table and Terry declared: "We're not going to settle for a five-point gap, we want to increase that lead.

"It's encouraging that we won both our titles leading from the front. That's in the back of our minds and it could be key for us. Fingers crossed we can do the same again.

"We have already won more games against the other teams in the 'Big Four' than we did last season and that gives us confidence. It's a good psychological lift for us because it's where we lost it last year.

"Arsenal are looking good at the moment. They are free-flowing and scoring goals like they always do but when they pick up injuries they tend to miss some key players.

"Manchester United have some tough games coming up as well. It's important before we lose the African players in January that we build a big cushion.

"It was a bit of a scrappy game. We probably showed each other too much respect. We've been playing well at home and we should have continued that and taken the game to them a little bit more.

"Still, we did what we had to do, got another clean sheet, which is really pleasing against a top side.

"The message from this defeat will be for United to kick on. They certainly won't give up. We were in their position last year and the year before that and there was no way we were going to give up.

"They've had a few injuries in their squad and missed a few key players, but once everyone is fit and well they'll be raring to go and will push us and Arsenal to the end."

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson will not face any action from the Football Association over his criticism of referee Martin Atkinson.

Ferguson condemned the decision to award the free-kick that led to the goal as "absolutely ridiculous" and said he is losing his faith in refereeing.

It is understood however the FA are not planning to take any action against the United manager as he did not question the referee's integrity or claim there was any bias.

Ferguson, who has already been charged with improper conduct for accusing referee Alan Wiley of being 'unfit', insisted Atkinson was wrong to award Chelsea a free-kick when Darren Fletcher challenged Ashley Cole.

He also claimed Didier Drogba fouled Wes Brown in the area as Frank Lampard crossed and was offside when Terry's header, which appeared to also hit Nicolas Anelka, went over the line.

He said: "What can you do? There's nothing we can do about it, you lose faith in the referee sometimes."

But assistant boss Mike Phelan insists Ferguson has the right to speak his mind about officials when necessary.

"I know the manager talks about referees but I think he has a point at times," said Phelan.

"He has to make these points in order to try and improve the standard.

"The referee obviously gave the offside decision, the linesman's there, he should see it, (he) didn't do it correctly from what we saw but you have to live with these things in football.

"First and foremost we didn't really think it was a free-kick. We thought Darren was committed to the tackle, he won the ball and Ashley Cole was getting out of the way of it really.

"But with the delivery of the free-kick, we felt that there was an infringement against Wes Brown but the referee wasn't in a very good position to see it.

"He should have been in a better position but we should have defended it better. We didn't and we paid the price."

Scotland international Fletcher insisted he had not fouled Ashley Cole for the free-kick which led to Chelsea's winner.

"It was clearly not a foul," said Fletcher.

"I knew at the time and I have watched it again on the replay.

"I back-heeled the ball and Cole just jumps up in the air and the ref gives a foul."

Belfast Telegraph


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