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What They Said: Di Matteo: Don't call us title contenders

ESPN staff
October 20, 2012 « Hardy to help St-Pierre prepare for Condit | Chartbeat test »

Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo is still refusing to declare his side genuine title contenders despite their impressive 4-2 win over Tottenham on Saturday.

The Blues triumphed thanks to goals from Gary Cahill, Juan Mata(2) and Daniel Sturridge - after William Gallas and Jermain Defoe had given Tottenham a 2-1 lead - to maintain a four-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

"I think I would say it is too early to say that [we are contenders]," Di Matteo said. "There are 30 games still to play. It makes us a team that is strong and makes our start even better, but with 30 more games I still think that you have to wait until the Christmas period."

Andre Villas-Boas also felt the passion of the occasion may have counted against Tottenham as they looked to hold on to their 2-1 lead:

"I think on the positive side we have shown great strength of character to come back into the game in the second half," Villas-Boas said. "The amount of intensity was a problem because we wanted to calm the game down, but calming a game down at this level is extremely difficult. There is so much passion involved and so much emotion - it was so frenetic, us losing the ball and them losing the ball."

Villas-Boas also rued the loss of Gareth Bale, who attended the birth of his child: "He was missed but we have very, very good players and options," said the Spurs boss. "You saw how they behaved. [Gylfi] Sigurdsson came in and played very well. The squad is good and we have good players."

Norwich boss Chris Hughton was delighted after his Canaries dented Arsenal's title hopes with a 1-0 win - courtesy of Grant Holt's first-half goal.

"What is more pleasing than anything is that we thoroughly deserved it," Hughton told ESPN. "No fluke or coincidence about the result, on the breakaway in the last ten minutes where we've broken on three occasions, if our final ball was better we [could have] finished this game off a little earlier than we were able to."

Arsene Wenger - who revealed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will miss Wednesday's Champions League clash with Schalke - said he felt Arsenal were well below par after they slumped to defeat at Carrow Road:

"The attitude of the team has been excellent but that was not at the level of what we have produced until now," he said. "It was the first time of the season we were way below par. Norwich had a good defensive performance; they were focused and committed. We had a lot of the ball but did not create much with it. It was an illusionary domination. It was a disappointing performance for our side."

Manchester City assistant manager David Platt hailed his side's spirit after they came from behind to beat West Brom, having played much of the match with ten men following James Milner's red card:

"It was a strange game which was full of incident," Platt said. "We thought we controlled the first half, despite going down to 10 men, and it was tremendous how we stuck together in the second half and created so many chances. It's a great fillip to win after playing for almost 70 minutes with 10 men."

West Brom boss Steve Clarke believes City are showing the mark of champions after grinding out three points at the Hawthorns, with Edin Dzeko's brace cancelling out Shane Long's opener:

"It is a difficult one to take but we have to give credit to City," Clarke said. "They showed why they are champions - the way they played with 10 men was tremendous. Saying that, we put them in a position where they were reduced to 10 men and we acquitted ourselves very well and showed we are a very good team too."

Sir Alex Ferguson - who berated Rio Ferdinand for refusing to wear a Kick It Out T-shirt - said his strike trio of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck had been given free rein as all three found the net during United's 4-2 win over Stoke:

"They had flexible roles today and it all depends on their movement. If we can get that we will be a handful for teams. Most of the games at home this season we've had terrible starts. When we did get going we played some terrific football. I was pleased with the performance after the first 20 minutes."

Stoke took an early lead courtesy of Rooney's own goal, but they were unable to hold onto their advantage, and Tony Pulis admitted his side were sloppy in defence:

"One or two players didn't play as well as they can do today and we need them to play at their best. Against the top teams if you switch off they kill you. We were sloppy defending and the times of the goals killed us."

Robin van Persie was one of three Manchester United players to score © Getty Images
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Brendan Rodgers could scarcely hide his relief after securing his first home league win as Liverpool manager after his side beat Reading 1-0 at Anfield, thanks to Raheem Sterling's first-half winner:

"I'm very pleased for the players and the supporters; it's been a long time coming to be honest. We should have had three points here long before today but on the back of an international break and players travelling all around the world I thought it was a terrific performance. We need to improve our finishing which is an ongoing theme but as long as we get the three points and a clean sheet that was the most important thing."

Reading boss Brian McDermott insisted there were plenty of positives to take from his side's trip to Anfield, after Reds keeper Brad Jones was forced into a couple of match-winning saves:

"Second half we were right in the game and I honestly thought we were going to get at least a point out of the game. You don't want to be saying well done to your players when you've lost a game but we move on with a lot of positives."

Sam Allardyce praised Andy Carroll and Yossi Benayoun after West Ham's 4-1 win over Southampton, which came courtesy of goals from Mark Noble(2), Kevin Nolan and Modibo Maiga. Carroll is yet to score since joining on loan from Liverpool:

"He is a nuisance to defenders, to try to win the ball, to try to play the ball out," Allardyce said. "While he did not get a real chance today, his hold-up play allowed us to start to spring off and get into the game more.

"It was great for Yossi Benayoun to get out onto the pitch as well, and at the crucial time he has shown top quality with a beautiful ball to the far post for Nolan to touch in. A lot of our players would have tried to shoot, but he picked out Kevin brilliantly."

Southampton boss Nigel Adkins expressed his frustration at the result - his side have now conceded 24 goals in their opening eight Premier League matches:

"The first half was good with us passing it well, and moving it around nice and keeping good possession of the ball. The result in the end was hard to take and it was frustrating in the dugout. Adam Lallana scored a good goal, we looked threatening but the penalty took the sting out of us."

Roberto Martinez blamed a controversial offside call after his Wigan side lost 2-1 to Swansea. Pablo Hernandez and Michu gave Swansea the lead, but Emmerson Boyce halved the deficit before Arouna Kone's header was wrongly chalked off for offside:

Chris Baird scored late on for Fulham © PA Photos
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"It's a big call," Martinez said. "When I was watching live, it looked level. It's an extremely tight decision, and it's a shame because it was an outstanding piece of play. Sometimes these decisions just don't go in your favour."

Michael Laudrup was delighted to pick up three points ahead of a tough run of fixtures for Swansea:

"Looking down, there are a lot of teams on four or five points, so it is nice to have 11," Laudrup said. It was so important to score goals and to win the game, especially with what is coming up. We have Manchester City and Chelsea in the league and Liverpool away in the cup."

Fulham boss Martin Jol admitted his side were fortunate to beat Aston Villa after Chris Baird's 84th-minute strike sealed a 1-0 win for the Cottagers:

"I'm very pleased with the three points because I told them before the match, 11 [points] out of eight [games] is not great but 13 out of eight is decent," he said. "If you look at them, [Villa] had a lot of possession, 50-50. That is a lot because normally we have more, but it was probably a result which was ground out by us. I don't care because we needed the points."

His opposite number, Paul Lambert, agreed with Jol and felt Villa were worth at least a point at Craven Cottage:

"Some of the football we played was great and coming to a hard place where their home record is very good, I thought we gave as good as we got."

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