Sunday 18 March 2018

Cech: Blues battle for success

Petr Cech, left, pulls off a fine save to keep out Romelu Lukaku's effort
Petr Cech, left, pulls off a fine save to keep out Romelu Lukaku's effort

Petr Cech believes surviving challenging moments is key to his and Chelsea's enduring success.

The Blues are in pole position for their first Premier League title since 2010 - seven points clear of second-placed Manchester City with 13 games remaining - after Wednesday night's 1-0 win over Everton.

Cech, restored in goal ahead of Thibaut Courtois, made two outstanding saves to deny former Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku and then Willian struck in a frantic and ill-tempered finale.

"In a difficult time you need to survive the moment which is not going well for you," Cech told Chelsea TV.

"You need to have the discipline not to try to do things which wouldn't help; you try to do things which might help you to get through the difficult period in the game.

"We have the belief that once you overcome the difficult period of a game you can come on top of it.

"A lot of times we've done it and it's great to see that we haven't lost this kind of touch."

Cech made his fourth Premier League start of a season in which he has been second choice behind Courtois.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho opted for Cech after Courtois played consecutive matches against Liverpool, City and Aston Villa and, according to the Blues boss, was fatigued by the focus required.

Illness to John Terry on the morning of the game meant Mourinho wanted Cech's leadership on the field, too, even though the skipper recovered to play. And the 32-year-old Cech did not disappoint.

Cech's cleansheet was his 168th in the Premier League and he could soon surpass David James' record haul of 170, particularly if Mourinho sticks with him.

"I'm delighted with the way the cleansheets are going, especially in the Premier League and hopefully it will stay like this for a while," Cech added.

"I think the most important thing is to get three points, because if you played 0-0 it would've been nice for me to get a cleansheet but it wouldn't have been good for the team.

"I'm more delighted with the fact we scored at the end and we got three points."

Chelsea have a rare weekend off after their shock FA Cup elimination to Bradford and Cech will be hoping he keeps his place for next Tuesday's Champions League last-16 first leg at Paris St Germain.

Striker Diego Costa, who completed his three-match domestic suspension against Everton, will also be available for Mourinho, who has a big decision to make in defence.

Gary Cahill again was a substitute against Everton, with Kurt Zouma preferred and there is a possibility the Frenchman could start in Paris.

"He's doing remarkably well every time he gets a nod from the manager," Cech said.

"As every game passes he gets more experience, more used to the Premier League and his tactical awareness is really good now. Everybody benefits when he plays."

Tim Howard returned in Everton's goal after an eight-match absence with a calf problem.

The United States goalkeeper rued the late loss, which came after Gareth Barry had received a second yellow card.

"I think any time you come up against a Chelsea side that is top of the table, you know they are not going to roll over, but we feel we can play and we were not going to be bullied," Howard told

"Not many teams come here and win, and we felt that if we could do a few things which we did, then we could go on and get a result.

"We created chances and we were resilient defensively - we were just unfortunate with the sending off and the goal came quickly after that.

"Of course there is disappointment over the result, but I think we played well and we were resilient at the back again.

"On a personal level, it's just good to be back. I have been clawing at the physio, telling him I'm fit for the last three weeks but he kept telling me I wasn't."

Everton, also out of the FA Cup, next play Young Boys in the Europa League.

Howard added: "It is a really exciting game - we've seen some nonsense about the competition getting in the way of things, but we don't see it like that at all because it is a fantastic competition. We are really looking forward to it."

Press Association

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