Sunday 23 September 2012

Di Matteo satisfied by 'deserved' Chelsea victory

All the manager reactions to Saturday's Barclays Premier League matches

  • Ashley Cole (right) pounces to win the match late on for Chelsea against Stoke City

  • Rickie Lambert drives in Southampton's equaliser against Aston Villa

  • Darren Bent celebrates after breaking the deadlock at Southampton

  • Hugo Rodallega heads in for Fulham against his former side Wigan Athletic

  • Chelsea striker Fernando Torres is thwarted by Stoke City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic

  • West Brom's Billy Jones and Reading's Nicky Shorey tussle for the ball

  • Striker Victor Anichebe celebrates Everton's opening goal against Swansea City

  • Roberto Mancini's City and Arsene Wenger's Arsenal go head to head at the Etihad

  • Raheem Sterling's Liverpool host rivals Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday

His side may have waited until five minutes before the end to produce their winning goal but Roberto Di Matteo insisted Chelsea's 1-0 win against Stoke City was "fully deserved" from a match he described as "one-way traffic".

Stoke hit the crossbar though Jonathan Walters after 20 minutes and gave the European club champions a testing encounter at Stamford Bridge before Ashley Cole popped up to win the match for the hosts in the 85th-minute.

"I thought it was only going to be a matter of time before we scored because we were creating chances and opening them up"
Roberto Di Matteo

However, there was no question in Di Matteo's mind that his side were not going to run out winners and preserve their lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League.

"It was fully deserved," said the Italian. "It was one-way traffic today. They had probably a few chances, from a free-kick, a corner and a break, but it was one-way traffic really for the whole game.

"It was very difficult to break them down because Stoke are very well organised. It’s always like that. You always know what type of game to expect and if you're lucky enough to score an early goal that helps but if not then you have to just try and keep going and try the paces and find solutions."

After a first half in which the west Londoners, playing without the rested England pair John Terry and Frank Lampard, struggled to find their rhythm, the Blues improved in the second period yet the winning goal only came late in the day.

"You keep going," continued Di Matteo. "Early in the second half I thought it was only going to be a matter of time before we scored because we were creating chances and opening them up a little bit more – fortunately it came at the end.

"They hit the bar from a free-kick. That's their gameplan with set-plays but all in all I think we dealt with their threat very well and going forward we were always good value."

Di Matteo added that there was nothing behind his decision to rest Terry and Lampard other than to give his elder statesman a chance to recover from a busy recent schedule.

"It's just a question of using the squad," he said. "We've got so many games and trying to utilise fresh players and our two boys have played so many games for us and will play many, many more. They are fantastic, those two; they lead by example and we are a group and that is what is most important."

Pulis solace Chelsea show

Tony Pulis felt that poor finishing was the only thing missing from a performance he considered to be the "best we've played since arriving in the Barclays Premier League".

"I think we played really well," he said. "I think it was most probably the best we’ve played at Chelsea in the five years we've been in the Barclays Premier League. We created some really good opportunities and missed some chances."

"We're disappointed not to have at least scored - I think we deserved to score today"
Tony Pulis

After earning draws against Arsenal and Manchester City already this season the Potters were close to following suit at Stamford Bridge, but rather than the goal they conceded it was the goal they didn't score that left Pulis feeling rueful.

"Jon [Walters] will be the first to say that he should have scored from his chance and if that had gone in it would have been a different game, but Jon's a great lad been a great signing for this football club.

"We played the champions of England last week and did really well and we've played the champions of Europe this week and given them a good run for their money. We're disappointed not to have at least scored. I think we deserved to score today."

Clarke rewarded by Long game

Steve Clarke defended his decision to drop West Brom's leading scorer Shane Long after his replacement, Romelu Lukaku, scored the winner in the 1-0 home victory against Reading.

"Third in the table doesn't mean anything - our aspirations are the same"
Steve Clarke

Though Clarke left out Long against his former club, the striker responded by coming off the bench to set up the second-half winner for on-loan Chelsea front man Lukaku.

"Shane has been terrific for me this season and it was a difficult decision to leave him out," said Clarke. "I just thought Lukaku had been very patient waiting for his chance from the bench.

"I also felt I was always asking Shane to do the horrible shift which is the first hour, where he runs and chases and defenders are still fresh.

"I thought it would benefit Shane to go on as the fresh player for a change and thankfully for me and the team, it worked."

Lukaku had also scored as a substitute in the 3-0 win over Liverpool and Clarke is aware he could return to Stamford Bridge in January if he maintains his fine form.

"Lukaku is here on a season-long loan but I would imagine there is a recall clause in the agreement,” he said. "Any Barclays Premier League team who does a season-long loan usually has a January release clause.

"There's no point in worrying about things I can't affect. I'm just looking for Romelu to continue the fine form he's shown for us and score a few more goals. If he scores 20 goals by Christmas and Chelsea want him back there's nothing I can do about it.

"He had a number of clubs he could have gone to, we're just thankful he's come here to the Albion."

Victory lifted the Baggies into third place in the Barclays Premier League with 10 points from their opening five games but Clarke refused to get too carried away by Albion's flying start.

"Third in the table doesn't mean anything," he said. "Our aspirations are the same. The only aspiration I have at this time is getting another team together for Wednesday night (against Liverpool) in the Capital One Cup, which we look forward to.

"We also have another difficult league game to look forward to next week against Aston Villa. We go from game to game.

"For now the primary objective for 75% of the Barclays Premier League is to get to the margin of points to keep you safe."

McDermott not panicking

Though they are still searching for their first Barclays Premier League victory Reading manager Brian McDermott stressed the need for unity after this third reverse in succession.

"We were bottom of the Championship at one stage last season and ended up winning it - we have to stick together"
Brian McDermott

"It was frustrating," he said. "We spoke at half-time and said whatever happens keep a clean sheet and the goal was disappointing from our point of view.

"You never want to be bottom of any league. All we can do is stick together and we've done that.  We have to make sure everyone is right for the next game and that's what I'm confident will happen.

"This is an unforgiving league. We know that. It is fantastic to play in and we want to be part of that. We were bottom of the Championship at one stage last season and ended up winning it. We did exactly what we did now, we have to stick together."

Adkins praises united Saints

Manager Nigel Adkins paid tribute to the togetherness of his team and their supporters after Southampton rallied from a goal down to end their Barclays Premier League losing streak in style with a morale-boosting 4-1 victory against Aston Villa.

Saints came into the match at the bottom of the standings after four successive defeats and looked on course for another reverse when Darren Bent gave the visitors a first-half lead.

However, Rickie Lambert drew the hosts level and then played a part in the build-up as Nathaniel Clyne tucked away a superb ball from Gaston Ramirez.

Jason Puncheon saw a shot deflected in by Villa defender Ciaran Clark shortly afterwards, before Lambert netted from the spot in stoppage time to secure a victory that helps lift the pressure off the newly-promoted side.

"I think it is understandable when you lose the first games of the season [that there is a bit of anxiety]," Adkins said. "It is always a situation that could be pressurised, if you like. We keep talking to players about working through the process.

"We want to pass the football and everyone is well aware of that. We've done it on many, many occasions.

"We have come a long way in a short space of time and when things aren't quite going our way, everyone pulls together"
Nigel Adkins

"I think the supporters understand that as well and there was a massive togetherness all the way through the stadium together.

"One or two passes may have gone astray but there was a real belief about what we do. We scored some good goals and arguably could have got a couple more.

"It is great that we have got a football club where everyone is united together. We have come a long way in a short space of time and [even] sometimes when things aren't quite going our way, everyone pulls together.

"Everyone has worked very, very hard from the chairman all the way down. We have got some fantastic staff, some fantastic football players and importantly the supporters, who are outstanding.

"They get behind the players and the team. They know what we are trying to achieve, what we are achieving and, together as one, we're doing it."

It was quite a return to form by Southampton after last week's 6-1 hiding at Arsenal. Adkins shook things up in a bid to change his side's fortunes, bringing in Ramirez, Maya Yoshida and Paulo Gazzaniga for their full Premier League debuts.

The latter was a surprise inclusion, with the 20-year-old Argentinian goalkeeper replacing club captain Kelvin Davis after he conceded 14 goals in Southampton's first four Premier League matches.

"They are decisions that all managers have to make," Adkins said. "Kelvin Davis is an outstanding professional. He has been fantastic since I joined this football club and has been an ever-present for us.

"I've got to make a decision about what I have to go and do. I spoke to Kelvin on Thursday about it and he reacted exactly how I imagined he would.

"He has been a total professional, got right behind the players and has given Paulo a lot of support and Paulo has gone and put in a good performance today."

Lambert lays off Villans

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert was rueful of his side’s defending after they shipped four goals after taking the lead but the Scot refused to be overly critical of his side.

Christian Benteke came agonisingly close to doubling Villa's advantage early in the second half, before manager Rickie Lambert inspired a superb comeback.

"The lads know - they don't need me to tell them what's good and what's not"
Paul Lambert

"The first half I thought we were worthy of it but you can't defend as deep as that and expect to get a 1-0," Lambert said. "We had a couple of chances to make it two and we were okay for 50 minutes.

"They have been down before in games so there was no need to panic. At 2-1 you are still in the game but we have moments like that. I never get too high when we win or too low when we lose.

"The lads know. They don't need me to tell them what's good and what's not. The first half we were fine but then we gave ourselves too much to do."

Rodallega earns Jol respect

Hugo Rodallega earned the praise of both managers as he helped Fulham to their first Barclays Premier League away win of the season against his former club Wigan Athletic.

Wigan's all-time leading scorer in the Barclays Premier League with 24 goals left the Latics in the summer and scored his first goal for his new club against his former employers with the first goal of the Londoner’s 2-1 triumph at the DW Stadium.

"Hugo Rodallega showed respect to the people and they showed him respect as well"
Martin Jol

"I knew Rodallega would be very eager and motivated to do something nice, to score his goal and that was exactly what he did, so that was ever so pleasing for us," said Fulham manager Martin Jol. "He showed respect to the people and they showed him respect as well."

Rodallega's goal came in the 31st minute and Damien Duff added a second for the visitors in the 68th minute before Arouna Kone pulled one back in injury time.

However, it was the performance of Dimitar Berbatov that most stood out for Jol. "I always thought he was a fantastic player, the only thing I see now is he can play in a different position as well,” continued Jol. "If you go and play against Wigan in an away game you take a big gamble to play with two strikers. I made the gamble to play with Hugo up top and Dimitar, and he was probably the best No10 you can ever imagine."

Martinez praise for former pupil

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez commended Rodallega on his restrained reaction to scoring but was left feeling that his side derserved more from the match.

"Hugo showed real respect to the fans," he said. "It could have been easy for him to celebrate the goal, and rightly so. It was a nice gesture from him and the fans recognised that.

"Nothing gives you more happiness than winning a football game so showing the respect of controlling the emotions I think was a nice touch"
Roberto Martinez

"Nothing hurts you more than losing a football game and nothing gives you more happiness than winning a football game so showing the respect of controlling the emotions I think was a nice touch."

Fulham merited their lead but Wigan only had themselves to blame for failing to pull level. In the first half Jordi Gomez was unlucky to see his well-struck shot hit the underside of the bar while Kone and substitute Mauro Boselli both passed up presentable chances in the second period.

They were made to pay when substitute Bryan Ruiz set up Duff for a clinically-taken second, and when Kone did eventually find the net with a crisp turn and shot it was too little, too late.

"I don't think we deserved to lose,” said Martinez. "What Fulham did was created a few chances, probably more than we would like. I thought from open play a couple of times we showed a lack of intensity in defence but we had the better chances.

"When Jordi hits the crossbar it seems that it's not going to be your day. Arouna Kone and Mauro Boselli's chances were as open as you're going to get and you need to score goals.

"We need to improve in certain aspects, we can't concede goals so cheaply because then it becomes very difficult to win games."

Allardyce's finishing concern

Despite requiring a last-gasp equaliser from Kevin Nolan to salvage a point against Sunderland, the overriding feeling for West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce was one of frustration.

"From a manager's point of view I have to be concerned about our finishing"
Sam Allardyce

Steven Fletcher's fourth goal in three matches had put Sunderland ahead and West Ham dominated the game without reward until Nolan scored with a shot on the turn in the dying seconds.

"Didn't we deserve more than that on the balance of play? I thought from the start to finish we were the dominant side and created far more chances," said Allardyce. "Because we didn't capitalise by having enough players showing a clinical finish we have ended up having to be satisfied with a draw.

"We are relieved and happy to have a point because, irrespective of who was the better side, we were still 1-0 down, but we will wake up tomorrow disappointed, knowing we should have won the game on the chances we created.

"At that late stage the point is something we are happy with but overall we are disappointed."

Nolan had an acrobatic volley saved by the excellent Simon Mignolet and missed another effort from close range while Carlton Cole, Ricardo Vaz Te and James Collins all squandered good chances.

And it is a lack of cutting edge that Allardyce admitted is a growing concern in his bid to keep his newly promoted side in the Barclays Premier League. "Sunderland had four attempts at goal today," he said. "That shows the dominance we created but our Achilles heel was our finishing.

"It wasn't good enough and that made us struggle to the very end. From a manager's point of view I have to be concerned about that."

O'Neill's Fletcher comfort

For Martin O'Neill a fourth consecutive Barclays Premier League draw was a bitter pill to swallow after his side had held on to their lead for most of the match.

Steven Fletcher had taken advantage of a mishit pass from Collins to put Sunderland ahead after nine minutes, and although the Black Cats found themselves under siege for most of the encounter they could still have settled the contest through David Vaughan and James McClean.

"Steven Fletcher is playing brilliantly for us - he has scored all of our goals so far"
Martin O'Neill

"I am obviously disappointed," said O'Neill. "We looked as if we had dealt with just about everything that had been thrown at us but we were never able to kill the game off.

"We had some great opportunities in the second half. West Ham were pressing forward and leaving the door open for us. We should have taken advantage of it. We should have won the game.”

O'Neill could at least take some solace from the form of his transfer-window signing. "Fletcher is playing brilliantly for us," he said. "He has scored all of our goals so far.

"He is bringing players into play, he is proving himself an all-round high quality centre forward."

Saturday 22th September 2012

Swansea City 0-3 Everton  #SWAEVE
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Chelsea 1-0 Stoke City #CHESTK
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Southampton 4-1 Aston Villa #SOUAVL
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West Bromwich Albion 1-0 Reading #WBARDG
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West Ham United 1-1 Sunderland #WHUSUN
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Wigan Athletic 1-2 Fulham #WIGFUL
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Sunday 23rd September

1.30pm: Liverpool v Manchester United #LIVMUN
Read preview and watch press conference >

3.00pm: Newcastle United v Norwich City #NEWNOR
Read preview and watch press conference >

4.00pm: Manchester City v Arsenal #MCIARS
Read preview and watch press conference >

4.00pm: Tottenham Hotspur v Queens Park Rangers #TOTQPR
Read preview and watch press conference >

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