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Conte concerned Blues will blow it

China Daily | Updated: 2017-04-03 07:20

Conte concerned Blues will blow it

Christian Benteke celebrates scoring Crystal Palace's second goal in its 2-1 Premier League victory at Chelsea on Saturday. Palace's win and victory for Tottenham at Burnley cut the Blues' lead to seven points. [Photo/Agencies]

Boss braced for tense run-in after slip-up gives chasing pack hope

LONDON - Antonio Conte admitted Chelsea's shock 2-1 defeat against Crystal Palace on Saturday has blown the Premier League title race wide open.

Conte's side went into the game 10 points clear at the top after a run of 13 straight wins at Stamford Bridge.

But goals from Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke earned Palace victory in the London derby, and second-place Tottenham's 2-0 triumph at Burnley cut Chelsea's lead at the summit to seven points with nine matches remaining.

Blues boss Conte conceded the pressure will be on when his team hosts Manchester City on Wednesday.

"For others this is a good result. It makes the championship more interesting," Conte said.

"But I always said that the league finishes when it is mathematically sure you have won. Otherwise you must play every game to try to win because, I repeat, in England easy games do not exist.

"We have to play Manchester City next and we all know the strength of this team.

"But, now, the most important thing is to recover very well and rest. It's important to prepare in the right way for this game.

"Every game will be very tough from now until the end - if the team is Manchester City or a side fighting in the relegation zone."

It looked like it would be an easy day for Chelsea when Cesc Fabregas fired it ahead after five minutes.

However, Zaha equalized four minutes later, and in the 11th minute Benteke gave the Eagles a lead they never relinquished.

Wonderful Wilf

Cote d'Ivoire winger Zaha stole the show on Saturday, and Palace manager Sam Allardyce believes the former Manchester United player, who earned two England caps before declaring for the country of his birth, is now delivering on his undoubted potential.

"Wilf must feel really good about himself. It's about consistent performances at the moment," said Allardyce.

"It was there before he left for the Cote d'Ivoire. He's continued to show that with them, and he showed it today with his quality.

"There's a man in Chelsea's side, an outstanding individual like Wilf, Eden Hazard. His ability is something Wilf could look at to try and match. Him and Christian were our match winners, and protecting our lead was our goalkeeper (Wayne Hennessey) and the defense.

"Wilf is already realizing his potential with the way he's playing."

Palace is just four points clear of the bottom three, but Allardyce believes his players are growing in confidence.

He singled out France centerback Mamadou Sakho for praise, although any talk of securing a permanent move for the on-loan Liverpool defender will have to wait until the club's relegation battle concludes.

"Securing our Premier League status is our priority, and then we'll see what Mamadou Sakho's aspirations are," added Allardyce.

"His future doesn't look as if it is at Liverpool. He's enjoying his football and his life here.

"He's brought that resilience by leading by example. He's taking a commanding role and the information he's giving out on the field.

"That has helped with our defensive resilience - one goal conceded in four games."

The only setback for Palace was injuries to defenders James Tomkins and Scott Dann.

"Scott has injured his knee. Joel Ward fell on his knee and he felt something go in his knee," Allardyce said.

"Losing James and then Scott is a blow for us. But Martin Kelly and Damien Delaney came on and never put a foot wrong."

Mourinho slams misfiring attack

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho blasted four of his key stars after another frustrating afternoon at Old Trafford ended in a 0-0 draw with West Bromwich Albion.

Mourinho's side has drawn eight Premier League games at home this season, with United frequently failing to turn possession dominance and chances into goals.

The latest disappointment on Saturday followed that trend. United enjoyed 75 percent possession against the Baggies but could not halt a run of home draws that leaves it facing an uphill task to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League.

Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial all were all criticized by Mourinho afterwards as a United team, without six key players through injury or suspension, took its total of home points dropped in drawn games to 16 for the campaign.

"This is deja vu all season," said Mourinho. "We're not consistent. We miss easy chances. We have moments or periods when we push but then a couple of players disappear for 10 minutes, when you don't see them.

"You always see the same people, the same guys in front of the train, pulling the train. It's disappointing.

"We need to kill off teams. When you see the number of goals we score compared to our domination, it's a big contradiction."

Agence France-Presse

 

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