BIRMINGHAM, February 8 – Jose Mourinho insists the Premier League title race is not over even though Chelsea extended their lead at the top to seven points with a 2-1 victory at Aston Villa.
Branislav Ivanovic’s second-half winner enabled the league leaders to take advantage of Manchester City’s 1-1 draw against Hull and strengthen their grip on pole position on Saturday.
It also meant Blues boss Mourinho finally claimed a first win at Villa Park at what was the sixth attempt.
But Mourinho was keen to play down the significance of his side’s advantage over City and he claimed he will take nothing for granted until another title is mathematically guaranteed.
“In another country I would say it’s fantastic, in this country I would say it’s nothing,” Mourinho said.
“Every game is difficult, anything can happen. It’s very, very difficult.
“Seven points means seven points, we have 14 matches to go. We are speaking about 42 points to play for and in 42 we have a lead of seven. I think it’s nothing.
“I’m surprised by nothing. In this country every team can take points so I am not surprised.
“I didn’t care about it. Somebody told me after the game and that was it.
“When you are top of the league you don’t need other teams to lose points. If they lose, good, but if they don’t it’s not a problem.
“We have to focus on ourselves. If we win the next game we have a seven point lead with 13 matches to go. Let’s try to go step by step.”
– Villa woes continue –
Villa’s goal drought had finally ended at precisely the 11-hour mark after Jores Okore had cancelled out Eden Hazard’s opener, yet Ivanovic had the final say with his winner midway through the second half.
Paul Lambert’s side are now just two points clear of the relegation zone ahead of Tuesday’s crucial clash at fellow strugglers Hull.
“There’s a lot of good things to come out of the game for us, we’re disappointed to lose. I didn’t think we deserved to lose,” Lambert said.
“Football-wise we played well. I thought the front three were excellent. The performance was very good.
“We’re coming into a run of games that, if we play like that, we’ll pick up points. It’s not just about 17th, we want to go as high as possible. That’s the standard they have set themselves.”
The corresponding fixture between these sides last term was a tempestuous affair – two Chelsea players, Willian and Ramires, as well as Mourinho all dismissed – and this contest was much the same both on the pitch and in the dugout.
Lambert, who has had a series of spats with Mourinho in the past, was incensed in the first half by a comment from the Chelsea bench which prompted him to angrily gesticulate in their direction and remove and throw down his coat in disgust.
“I went to shake Jose’s hand (at the end) but he was halfway down the pitch so I didn’t get a chance,” he added.
“He is a great manager, it’s fantastic what the guy has done. I’d love to learn from him as a football manager.
“But I wouldn’t like to learn things off the pitch by someone in his dugout, that’s for sure.”