• What They Said

What They Said: Benitez blasts critics

ESPN staff
April 7, 2013 « Spurs sickener for Everton, Chelsea up to third | Chartbeat test »
Andre Villas-Boas wanted three points

Chelsea were the biggest winners on Sunday as they moved up to third in the Premier League by leapfrogging Tottenham, who drew with Everton at White Hart Lane.

The Blues came from behind to overcome Sunderland 2-1, and interim manager Rafael Benitez hit back at critics following the victory. "Two or three days before it was a crisis, two hours before the game it was the end of the world. Now we are in the top-three again," the Spaniard told Sky Sports.

"The media, you are too quick, too fast, everything is going too fast. We have to settle down and analyse things and have more relaxation when you do your analysis."

Benitez was criticised for resting key players in the loss to Southampton, and once again made further changes to his starting line-up against Sunderland. "You always try to select the right team. If you win you will say that is right, if you cannot, maybe we will find something to talk about.

"We see the players training and today you could see some players who were a little bit tired. But we have quality in the squad and the priority now is every game, trying to pick the right team and trying to win," he added.

Paolo Di Canio tasted defeat in his first game in charge of Sunderland, and with six games to go is hopeful of keeping the Black Cats in the Premier League. "I am not worried [about relegation], when I decided to move to Sunderland I knew what players were here but we have to fight until the end of the season," the Italian said.

"I won't say this was a bonus game but it was a test for us to see what we can do. I am not happy we lost 2-1 but there were positive things I can take from this."

Gylfi Sigurdsson ensured Tottenham would take a share of the spoils at White Hart Lane against Everton as the battle for the Champions League places took a twist.

There are only two points separating Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal. However, Arsenal and Chelsea are in the driving seats as they both have a game in hand over Spurs.

But boss Andre Villas-Boas believes the outcome will be decided on the final day of the campaign.

"It looks like it will go down to the wire at the end of the season for these Champions League spots. It's part of the game. Everything shifts very, very quickly in the Premier League but we have been in this position before and you have to deal with the pressure," he told BBC Sport.

Everton were denied the opportunity to close the gap to the three London clubs, but despite being six points behind fourth place, manager David Moyes is refusing to throw in the towel.

"I don't know if a point does a great deal for us. If we'd won we'd have been right in it," he said.

"I don't think we're too far away but I just hope the games don't run out. Tottenham are one of the top teams who have been fighting for fourth all season and we have taken four points off them this season so it is not a bad return."

Brendan Rodgers bemoaned a lack of luck as his Liverpool side failed to break down a resilient West Ham at Anfield.

The Reds had a Daniel Sturridge goal ruled out for offside, but Rodgers was quick to praise his players' work rate.

"The effort the players put in was very good," Rodgers said. "We just needed a bit of luck to go our way. I'm disappointed Daniel Sturridge's goal was disallowed for offside as I thought it was onside.

"You have to give West Ham credit as they defended very well. I never for one moment thought they were going to win it. They got in some great blocks and are an honest group of players that put their bodies on the line but only one team tried to win it and that was us, but we couldn't put the ball in the back of the net."

Sam Allardyce was of the opinion West Ham did enough for the victory at Anfield. "I am content, even though we should have won the game. We nullified Liverpool's strengths and created the better chances to score. I'm delighted. It's only our finishing that has cost us the three points," he said.

"Jose Enrique kicked James Tomkins when we should have had a penalty but I am satisfied with the performance and result. We know we've created better chances than Liverpool, even though they had more possession. James Collins and James Tomkins were outstanding. It's a big point. We are ever closer to the magic 40."

Queens Park Rangers suffered a kick in the teeth when a free-kick from Shaun Maloney deep into added-on time denied them a vital win with a man less against Wigan, and with his side seven points from safety, manager Harry Redknapp is resigned to relegation.

"It's going to be hard [to stay up] now," he said. "If we had come off with three points with ten men it would have been a fantastic boost. The players are very low - the same as me. They didn't deserve that. The fans, who got right behind them, didn't deserve it."

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez did not know what to make of the point. "It is mixed feelings. Relief but frustration as well because that was an incredible chance for us to win away from home but we couldn't get it and that is frustrating.

"We couldn't take advantage of the man advantage and that is frustrating. We are a better side than that. We were cagey," Martinez said.

Newcastle moved clear of the danger zone with Papiss Cisse scoring late on against Fulham at St James' Park, and Alan Pardew could not contain his delight following a crucial win.

"No money can buy how important that goal is to us as a football club," he said. "In the second half we deserved it - we were much more composed than in the first half when I thought we were nervous and a bit tired from midweek. It's a fabulous goal and goes to show we're a team who won't give in, we battle to the end."

Martin Jol was left disappointed with the outcome. "I thought we controlled the game in the first half, it was almost perfect," the Fulham boss said. "At [Tottenham] we limited them and then scored, and that was our intention today. We didn't score so 0-0 would have been okay as they kept coming at us. Compliments to Newcastle but we should have had a bit more."

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