Premier League: Chelsea’s joy of six curbed by ref gripes

Frank Dalleres
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Diego Costa headed Chelsea in front after just 11 minutes

CHELSEA manager Jose Mourinho celebrated his team stretching their Premier League lead to six points yesterday but insisted it was an injustice that the gap was not even greater.

Mourinho took issue with the award of a penalty against midfielder Nemanja Matic, from which Southampton’s Dusan Tadic equalised to cancel out Blues striker Diego Costa’s headed opener at Stamford Bridge. The Portuguese, fined for alleging a “campaign” against Chelsea after they were held by the Saints in December, was also aggrieved that referee Mike Dean did not award his men a spot-kick for a challenge by Tadic on full-back Branislav Ivanovic.

“I’m happy with the situation. I’m happy with the six-point lead, but I’m not happy with the result,” he said. “If you remember our two matches against Southampton, in one game, one penalty that is not a penalty and in another game a penalty that was not given. You are speaking about six points transformed into two points.”

Mourinho praised his players for their reaction to Champions League elimination against Paris Saint-Germain and said that third-placed Arsenal, whose own European setback against Monaco represents their only failure to win in eight games, had joined faltering Manchester City, who lie second, in title contention.

“More teams are in the race,” he added, referencing Arsenal’s recent results. “For me, which momentum: 3-1 against Monaco or 3-0 against West Ham? It depends on the momentum.”

Chelsea failed to take maximum advantage of City’s defeat at Burnley on Saturday but approach their last 11 league games with a healthy lead and a game in hand on the chasing pack.

A sequence of just four wins in 12 games may prove a concern, but there was little trepidation when Costa met Ivanovic’s deep right-wing cross with a precise header past motionless goalkeeper Fraser Forster just 11 minutes into a gripping contest.

Southampton were behind for just eight minutes, however, Tadic’s penalty sneaking past Thibaut Courtois’s feet after the midfielder had been felled by fellow Serb Matic.

Tadic tested Courtois with a low diagonal shot before escaping censure for clipping Ivanovic’s heel in the area and, though Saints remained a threat through the pace and trickery of forward Sadio Mane, Chelsea went closest to claiming all three points.

Forster made a superb double save to keep out Oscar’s header and Eden Hazard’s follow-up, while Blues skipper John Terry had a late effort blocked in the goalmouth.