Chelsea extends lead amid lingering racism row
Embroiled in controversy off the pitch but full of confidence on it, Chelsea strengthened its grip on the Premier League by beating Norwich 4-1 on Saturday as the fallout from a yearlong racism case persisted.
Chelsea's best start to a season in seven years has been overshadowed by captain John Terry being punished by football authorities for racially abusing an opponent, and defender Ashley Cole inflaming the row with a Twitter outburst that is now subject to disciplinary action by his club.
''I think the results are telling us that we are able to blank things out that are surrounding us generally, and we can focus on what is our aim, our target and job - to win football games,'' Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo said. ''So it shows how professional we are, how we respond to it.''
The European champions fell behind to winless Norwich after 11 minutes, but Fernando Torres canceled out Grant Holt's goal inside three minutes.
Frank Lampard volleyed Chelsea in front in the 22th, Eden Hazard extended the advantage before the break, and Branislav Ivanovic fired in another in the second half as Chelsea went four points clear of Manchester City.
''The team is in good health,'' Di Matteo said.
The Football Association panel that imposed a four-match ban on captain John Terry - pending any possible appeals - for racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand in a game last October released the reasons for its verdict on Friday.
Cole's ''evolving'' statements supporting his teammate's defense, though, were condemned by the FA, prompting the England international to launch an obscene outburst against the governing body on Twitter.
Chelsea is now set to fine Cole, while the FA could also charge him with misconduct.
''We've got a social media policy at the club and there's going to be a disciplinary process - action - against the tweet,'' Di Matteo said. ''I'm in favor of the social media entities but they just have to be used sensitively. As long as it's used responsibly it's a good way to communicate.''
But the row further endeared Cole to Chelsea fans.
''Ashley Cole, he tweets what he wants,'' they chanted at Stamford Bridge.
Cole responded later on Twitter that ''once again I want to thank the (hash tag) cfc fans, amazing.''
Despite external outrage, Chelsea and its fans also persist in supporting Terry, who is yet to apologize despite being found guilty of using a racist slur and also being fined 220,000 pounds ($356,000) by the FA.
Chelsea's defense, though, initially was as successful as Terry's at his disciplinary hearing with Norwich going in front after 11 minutes.
Grant Holt brought down Alexander Tettey's headed cross just inside the penalty area and sliced the ball past goalkeeper Petr Cech into the bottom corner of the net.
The lead lasted just three minutes as Torres scored in consecutive league matches for the first time since August. Bransilav Ivanovic crossed from the right and Torres rose to head the ball past goalkeeper John Ruddy.
A more speculative attempt by Torres to put Chelsea in front failed, but his overhead kick instead found its way to the edge of the area for Lampard to volley into the bottom corner.
As Norwich pushed for an equalizer, the visitors were ripped apart again by Chelsea. Juan Mata launched a flowing counterattack, slipped the ball through to Hazard, and the Belgium midfielder knocked a shot into the corner of the net.
Holt, though, threatened to score again for Norwich either side of the break as he twice got the better of Terry to threaten Cech. But Chelsea's conviction was unwavering.
''There was never really any danger we would lose this game,'' Di Matteo said.
Oscar produced a low save from Ruddy, who blocked Torres' effort when he only had the goalkeeper to beat.
But Ivanvoic added the gloss to the win by volleying the ball inside the post after Mata had flicked it into the right back's path.