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What They Said: Rafa claims he's made Chelsea better

ESPN staff
January 12, 2013 « Dodson chasing pigs & squirrels to prepare for Johnson | Chartbeat test »
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Rafael Benitez claimed Chelsea have improved under his guidance, following a 4-0 win over Stoke that saw Frank Lampard and Eden Hazard on the scoresheet: "We have a really good staff at Chelsea who work very hard. The players are happy and the atmosphere is good," Benitez said. "Obviously you can't control the results but in terms of the atmosphere at the club, it's fantastic. Hopefully we can win one or two more games and people will realise we're progressing well. If you analyse the stats you will see that we are scoring more goals and conceding less than in the past. Things are going well."

Tony Pulis criticised referee Andre Marriner for awarding the penalty from which Chelsea got their third goal. And he brushed off Jonathan Walters' afternoon, after the striker scored two own goals and missed a penalty: "Jon's fine. We look after people at the football club. It wasn't our day today, it was Chelsea's day," Pulis said. "The goals that we conceded were poor. I'm really disappointed with the penalty as well. I know Robert [Huth's] got his hand on his shoulder but [Juan] Mata's legs just collapse and I think it's soft."

Paul Lambert claimed referee Mark Halsey "guessed" the crucial penalty decision that handed Southampton a 1-0 win over Aston Villa. Replays showed Jay Rodriguez suffered little contact as he fell to the ground, and Lambert was not happy: "It's nowhere near it," Lambert told Sky Sports. "You've got to be 100% certain to give a penalty, and when Mark sees that I think he'll be embarrassed by it. He can't guess - you certainly can't do that in a game of that magnitude. You have to be 100% right, and to me that was a guess."

Nigel Adkins refused to criticise Rodriguez for his part in the goal, insisting Southampton have deserved a slice of luck this season: "It's a big talking point. For me the big decision is the one on Jay Rodriguez, I think that's what he's given it for. There's no contact, for me, Jay has moved his leg out of the way - and it's just as well as there would have been contact. We don't advocate diving whatsoever - we've got to make sure everyone is well aware of that - but they say it evens itself out and we could have had seven or eight penalties this season. We've got one here and Rickie Lambert's put it in the back of the net."

West Ham boss Sam Allardyce labelled his team's defending "pathetic" after the Hammers lost 3-0 to Sunderland, showing particular anger at Adam Johnson's second goal: "Just look at it, it was pathetic, wasn't it?" he said. "We have a free-kick and we let the opposition score. Jussi [Jaaskelainen] gets us out of jail in the first place by making a really, really good save, and then we mess up the clearance and they score, so it probably sums us up today. We didn't defend correctly, we didn't have the appetite for defending correctly and nullifying the opposition's strengths, we never passed the ball as well as we know we can."

Martin O'Neill labelled his team "brilliant" after goals from Sebastian Larsson, Johnson and James McClean: "I thought we were brilliant from start to finish," O'Neill said. "It was a magnificent effort by the team. It was very important for us today. We won some games over Christmas but let it slip against Liverpool. We were re-energised. The players had a couple of days off after the Bolton game, and they were full of vitality today."

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez predicts Ivan Ramis could miss the rest of the season due to a knee injury picked up in the 1-1 draw at Fulham: "That is the real negative of the afternoon," Martinez said. "I thought Ivan was outstanding throughout the game. I wouldn't want to say anything before seeing the scans, but I fear the worst. He has damaged the ligaments in the right knee and the signs are not great. I expect the worst, cruciate ligament. We are going to take him to hospital on the way back. Those injuries go from six to seven months, but obviously it is impossible for me to tell yet because we need to get the scans."

Ivan Ramis picked up a serious knee injury at Fulham © PA Photos
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Martin Jol criticised his Fulham outfit after they allowed Franco Di Santo to cancel out Giorgos Karagounis' opener: "It is always the same story," Jol said. "You go one up and you need another goal but cannot score another goal and then you are vulnerable. It is easier said than done but when you are 1-0 up you still have to dominate the game. We needed a second goal and we did not score a second goal. It was the same against Southampton when we needed a second goal and didn't score and they scored an equaliser."

Brian McDermott credited the fans after Reading came from two down to beat West Brom 3-2 thanks to Jimmy Kebe, Adam Le Fondre and Pavel Pogrebnyak: "I think the crowd here, they don't know how important to us they really are. They got us over the line here today. Once we scored the goal, the Jimmy Kebe goal, they really got into the game and made a massive difference to our players. Then when we scored to make it 2-2, I thought, 'I don't want to lose this game, but we might as well try and win it' because it was so important and I think Pavel Pogrebnyak's finish was top drawer for the third goal."

West Brom head coach Steve Clarke looked shellshocked after the game and he was at a loss for words to describe how the Baggies threw away such a dominant position after Romelu Lukaku's brace: "We had good control and I certainly couldn't see the finish to the game that happened,'' Clark said. "I am disappointed. I am not sure [what happened]. I can't be more honest than that. When you contrive to pull a defeat from what should be a comfortable victory then it is something we will have to look at."

Michael Laudrup told Vicente Del Bosque to take another look at Michu after the Spain boss watched Swansea produce a rearguard effort in a 0-0 draw at Everton: "It wouldn't have been the best game to see Michu in," Laudrup said. "I know Del Bosque has other people who can tell him what sort of form he's in. They see a lot of the Premier League in Spain. Obviously I hope Michu has a chance to play with the best team in the world at this time. The other Spanish players here also did well in front of him with Angel Rangel and Chico both having really good games."

Everton manager David Moyes was left frustrated by his side's inability to take their chances against Swansea: "It was frustrating. We had quite a few opportunities and made some chances but it was not enough, not clear enough chances really. On another day you take one and go on to win the game. We had three or four good opportunities to get a goal and we weren't able to take any. They did really well against Chelsea in the cup and did well again today. But I can't fault my boys, we made chances but didn't get behind them enough times and get the goals."

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew was pleased with the debut of Mathieu Debuchy after a hard-fought 0-0 draw at Norwich: "I thought he played well. It's difficult to come into that pace from the French league, trust me," Pardew said. "The first 10 minutes I thought he was a bit rocky and then he settled and had a moment at the end when he saved a good situation for Norwich. It was a great ball in and just the pressure he put on [Grant] Holt was enough to put him off."

Chris Hughton was left to rue missed chances after Russell Martin hit a post and Grant Holt missed a header in injury-time: "There was a lack of confidence in our offensive play, possibly,'' he said. "We had plenty of three on two situations but we couldn't find the final ball. Our crosses were poor and that was very frustrating.''

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