Rafael Benitez was pleased with his side’s show of character in turning around Sunday’s game against Sunderland, despite a below par Premier League performance.
In a game of few clear cut opportunities, it took a second-half own goal from Sunderland’s Matt Kilgallon and a ricochet off Branislav Ivanovic to cancel out Cesar Azpilicueta’s own goal just before the break.
The win moved us back up into third place ahead of Tottenham, Arsenal and Everton and rounded off a week in which we also secured important victories in the FA Cup and Europa League, with trips to Russia and Wembley to come in the seven days ahead.
On the performance
‘I was really pleased with the team,’ he said. ‘We didn’t start well and gave the ball away easily. We conceded a late goal but had a good reaction in the second half and were very positive.
‘Fernando made an impact quickly and we were on top of them, scored two goals and had control of the game. We didn’t score the third, we had to defend and after playing four games in eight days I am really pleased. The most important thing was to get the result and we did it.
‘We’re trying to play well, you’ll win more games, but sometimes you cannot. The other team was organised and we didn’t start well. The most important thing was we showed character and determination in the second half, and scored two goals.’
On whether he is surprised at the team’s run of wins despite the busy run of fixtures
‘I’d be surprised if I wasn’t watching them every training session and we didn’t do our homework. We analyse things, talk with them and the medical staff, so we have a lot of information and afterwards we pick the team. If we win I picked the right team, if we lose it’s my fault but we try to manage every game.
‘With too many games in a short period of time, it’s important to keep the team winning. You can play anyone and they have to be ready to give something. We have four games in the next [10 days] and we cannot stop, so we have to get results and have the right mentality.’
On whether the race for Champions League spots will be over before the last day of the season
‘I don’t think it will be possible. Totenham and Arsenal are pushing, and Everton, so we have to carry on until the end. Hopefully we can do well next week in the cup competitions and after against Fulham and Liverpool. We can’t say it will be done because they will be pushing too.
‘It’s important to have everyone sticking together and pushing in the same direction. It’s very simple and very clear.’
On Demba Ba’s ankle injury, sustained after a Craig Gardner foul in the first half
‘Ba has a problem with his ankle but we will have to see tomorrow.’
New Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio, taking charge of his first game, was encouraged by what he saw from his players.
‘I am more than happy for the first half,’ he said. ‘Chelsea obviously dominate when they keep the ball, against any other side at Stamford Bridge, but we were very organised.
‘The second half was difficult. In the last few days I studied the players and I know exactly what they can give in energy. The two goals came from little mistakes, and we will work to give them more energy in the next few weeks. We have a short time but we are capable.’