Jose Mourinho: “The best team won” but Chelsea has “no chance” of title

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LIVERPOOL — Three minutes from the end of Chelsea’s 2-0 win away at Liverpool on Sunday, Blues boss Jose Mourinho threw his arms into the air time and time again towards the 3,000 Chelsea fans stationed at the Anfield Road end of the stadium.

That whipped the Blues faithful into a frenzy. His ultra-defensive tactics frustrated Premier League leaders Liverpool as the title race took yet another dramatic twist as Mourinho’s ‘B squad’ prevailed with several starters out injured.

(MORE: Three things we learned from Liverpool vs. Chelsea)

Chelsea have now not lost to any of the current top four, beating Liverpool and Manchester City home and away, defeating Arsenal at home and drawing with them away at the Emirates. Five wins from six against the teams around you at the summit would usually clinch you the title, yet slip ups to teams at the wrong end of the table have cost Mourinho’s men dear. Asked what he thought about his sides display, which included time-wasting from the first minute and a negative outlook as he set up his side for the draw, this is what the 50-year-old Portuguese had to say.

“The best team won,” Mourinho said. “The team that deserved to win won. Simple. That is my opinion.”

Pushed further to unravel his sides defense approach, which saw the Blues control just 27 percent of possession and played with almost six at the back, Mourinho played dumb before praising his sides nous to record their league-high 17th clean sheet of the season.

“Defensive display? I am a bit confused with what the media thinks about defensive displays,” Mourinho said. “When a team defends well, you call it a defensive display, when you let in two or three goals, sometimes it is still a good defensive display. The team played brilliantly. Every player was magnificent. No mistakes. Zonal play, which is more difficult than man marking. Covering spaces, covering the man. It was a fantastic performance by my players.”

(MORE: Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea – Blues stun leaders after Gerrard’s blunder)

Chelsea are now well and truly back in the title race, as they sit on 78 points with two games to go, while Liverpool have 80 points and Manchester City will also be on 80 if they win their games in hand. All it takes is one slip up from Liverpool or City to let Chelsea back in, but Mourinho isn’t buying it. Not at all.

“We have no chance,” Mourinho said. “We were waiting for this match to be the title match. We were speaking about this match to be the title match for a long time, for some reason this match didn’t become the title match. Today was three important points, we need one more to finish third, then we will be in the Champions League automatically.”

The ‘Special One’ then reveled in the fact that whichever team wins the title — in his mind it is either Liverpool or City — both lost home and away to his Chelsea side.

Small victories, Jose. Yet could his latest win give Chelsea a fighting chance of lifting the PL title? Let’s wait and see.

“We won both matches against Liverpool and we won both matches against Manchester City,” Mourinho said. “It doesn’t matter who wins the title. We won both matches against the champion.”

La Liga: Real Madrid win wild one, now just 17 points behind Barca

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Barcelona ties club-record 31-game unbeaten run ]

Real Betis 3-5 Real Madrid

So long as they manage to hold off Sevilla for fourth place (Champions League qualification), Real Madrid will quickly move on from their disastrous 2017-18 season, spend a half-billion dollars in the summer and pretend like the 12 preceding months never even happened.

For a brief period on Saturday — nearly 30 minutes including the halftime intermission — that plan appeared fatally flawed and at risk. After going 1-0 up away to Real Betis courtesy of Marco Asensio’s 11th-minute opener, Los Blancos found themselves in big trouble after Aissa Mandi leveled things up in the 33rd minute, followed by a Nacho own goal four minutes later.

Five minutes into the second half, Sergio Ramos drew the visitors level, followed by another from Asensio in the 59th minute. Cristiano Ronaldo made it 4-2 six minutes later, at which point Madrid appeared home free.

Sergio Leon pulled Betis to within one in the 85th minute, but Karim Benzema restored the two-goal lead in the 91st, less than two minutes after replacing Ronaldo.

Atletico Madrid 2-0 Athletic Bilbao

With Barcelona still unbeaten on the La Liga season, the title is all but decided with more than three months still to play. That hasn’t stopped Atleti, though, as Diego Simeone’s side, which has lost just once in the league, continues to pursue Lionel Messi and Co. Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao moved Los Rojiblancos back to within seven points of Barca with a dozen games, and one head-to-head matchup, still to play.

Kevin Gameiro scored what turned out to be the winner in the 67th minute, followed not long after by Diego Costa‘s second league goal of the season (fourth in all competitions) to make it 2-0.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Sociedad 3-0 Levante
Espanyol 1-1 Villarreal

VAR provider apologizes for wrong image of offside Man Utd goal

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Whether or not you’re in favor of the use of video-assistant refereeing the world over — and, more specifically, English soccer — one thing on which we can all agree has become abundantly clear: VAR’s maiden voyage has been a chaotic, poorly conducted mess.

[ MORE: Jose Mourinho demands VAR calls be “perfect” ]

Any change to the game’s century-old rules and practices — especially of VAR’s monumental proportions — must be implemented and executed without a hitch. Any issues that had arisen prior to this weekend were minor in significance and import, but that all changed on Saturday, when Manchester United’s Juan Mata had a goal wiped away by VAR (WATCH HERE).

Mata appeared to have timed his run perfectly and been onside before slotting home to put Man United 2-0 ahead of Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup fifth round. After consulting the off-site video assistant, the goal was taken off the board. While the slightest bit of Mata’s knee appeared to have been in an offside position, the issue lies in the fact that the images provided to television broadcasters, by VAR provider Hawkeye, displayed a clearly crooked line of demarcation.

[ MORE: Man Utd draw Brighton in FA Cup QF; Chelsea get Leicester ]

Hawkeye issued a statement on Sunday, acknowledging and apologizing for the faulty image provided to broadcasters, but insisted that a correct version of the image was seen by the refereed:

“A technical error led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawkeye to BT Sport on Saturday. To confirm, the VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologize.”

In the end, by the most stringent interpretation of the law, VAR got the call correct. But that won’t matter one iota in the court of public opinion, as one mistake as simple as a crooked line gives the impression that the entire operation is haphazard and not fit for practice.

Juventus suffers blow with apparent Higuain injury

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The back-and-forth battle at the top of Serie A continued on Sunday as Juventus topped Torino at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino, however, the visitors suffered a big injury scare in the process.

[ MORE: Man United draws Brighton, Chelsea gets Leicester in FA Cup ]

Alex Sandro‘s winner came in the 33rd minute, but the focus of the match will leave all eyes on Gonzalo Higuain — who exited after just a quarter of an hour.

The Argentine international was looking to latch onto a through ball from Miralem Pjanic in the fifth minute, before jumping over an oncoming Salvatore Sirigu — goalkeeper for Torino.

Higuain appeared to land awkwardly on his ankle, though, and while he attempted to continue on in the match he was substituted off for Federico Bernardeschi 10 minutes later.

The extent of Higuain’s injury is unknown to this point, however, it comes at a very bad time for Juventus.

The Italian giants are heavily involved in the Serie A title race, holding a two-point lead over Napoli at the top of the table.

Additionally, Juve has important fixtures coming up in both the Coppa Italia and Champions League against Atalanta and Tottenham, respectively. Higuain and Co. are level at 2-2 with Spurs heading into their UCL second leg in early March, and Juve will surely need the striker’s presence to have a shot at advancing to the quarterfinals.

Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham: Davies stuns Spurs late

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A valiant effort from a League One side has rewarded the minnows with a replay set to be played at Wembley Stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur looked on its way towards the FA Cup sixth round on Sunday, but a late finish by Steven Davies gave Rochdale a 2-2 draw with the Premier League club at the Spotland Stadium.

[ MORE: Willian stars as Chelsea routs Hull in FA Cup ]

Harry Kane — who scored his 34th goal on the season in all competitions — converted from the penalty spot in the 88th minute, however, Davies had the final say deep into stoppage time to send the two sides towards a replay.

Ian Henderson’s finish in the 45th minute gave Rochdale a gift at the conclusion of the first stanza, after the hosts capitalized on a Spurs giveaway near midfield.

Meanwhile, Tottenham managed to level the match at 1-1 on the hour mark when Lucas Moura calmly slotted his close-range shot past goalkeeper Josh Lillis after a timely through ball from Moussa Sissoko picked out the former PSG man.

The visitors began pressing on in the second half, with Mauricio Pochettino‘s side having trailed at the halftime break.

The two sides will now meet on either Feb. 27 or 28 in the reverse fixture to decide which team advances. The winner will either meet Sheffield Wednesday or Swansea City in the quarterfinals.