Andre Villas-Boas said yesterday that his Chelsea team were united behind him after a last-minute 2-1 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers that featured a goal celebration in which some -- but not all -- of the Chelsea players ran over to their manager on the touchline.
Later on, the day got even better for Villas-Boas when Arsenal lost 2-1 in the final minute to Fulham, which means that Chelsea stay ahead of Arsene Wenger's team by a point in fourth.
Frank Lampard scored the winning goal for Chelsea in injury-time, although he later admitted that he was lucky not to be sent off for a first-half tackle on Adam Hammill that earned only a booking from the referee, Peter Walton.
Stephen Ward had scored an 82nd-minute goal to bring Wolves level following Ramires' 50th-minute opener for Chelsea.
It had been Ramires' goal which prompted a mass of players, including David Luiz, Ramires, Raul Meireles, Jose Bosingwa, Oriol Romeu and Ashley Cole to run over to the touchline to celebrate with their manager.
Last month, Villas-Boas denied a story that he had told his players to include their manager and the coaching staff in their goal celebrations.
Yesterday, the Chelsea manager was also moved to deny a story that certain players had arranged a farewell dinner for departing striker Nicolas Anelka after he was not invited to the club's training-ground Christmas party.
Villas-Boas said that the players' reaction was "part of their showing of the unity of the team and what the team have been doing".
"After recent events, from fixtures where we lost points, it's normal for stories to come out about untrue things going on," he said. "It's not good to see, the consistency in the criticism, in the invention of the negative critics."
Asked whether he was aware that the players were planning to celebrate a goal with him, Villas-Boas denied it. "If you want to be speculative, that's your choice," he said. "But if you take that route, you're not being correct. What has been written is false."
With Lampard understood to be one of those most unhappy with Villas-Boas' style of management, it was notable that the Chelsea manager did not dwell at all on the contribution of the winning goalscorer.
Lampard had been restored to the team after being only a substitute in the home defeat to Aston Villa on Saturday.
He slid into Hammill in the 18th minute, catching the Wolves man with his studs. Lampard said: "There was no malice, but I was late and I might have been a bit lucky to stay on the pitch."
Wolves manager Mick McCarthy said that he blamed his players for throwing away the chance of the win rather than the decision not to dismiss Lampard.
"(They should) defend the bleeding cross," he said. "Making sure you don't lose with two minutes to go is what you have to do. I have had a proper snarl in there because that is not acceptable for me." (© Independent News Service)
Independent News Service