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Monday, Oct. 8, 2012

Blues maintain focus, brush aside Norwich


LONDON — 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.

News photo
Topsy-turvy: Chelsea defender John Terry attempts to kick the ball during the Blues' 4-1 win over Norwich on Saturday in London. AFP-JIJI

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 F.A., prompting the England international to launch an obscene outburst against the governing body on Twitter.

Chelsea is now set to fine Cole, while the F.A. 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 (sensibly). 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 (hashtag) 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 ($356,000) by the F.A.

Earlier in the day, Manchester City was also rampant against Sunderland, but had only three goals to show for the dominance.

Aleksandar Kolarov scored from a free kick after five minutes at Etihad Stadium, substitute Sergio Aguero added a second on the hour, and James Milner blasted another dead ball into the net.

It was City's first game this season without conceding a goal.

"We are disappointed defensively this season but we are happy with the clean sheet," City manager Roberto Mancini said. "We are looking strong now, and since we have come back off the international break we have been playing well."

Everton dropped to third after relying on Leighton Baines' late penalty to earn a point.

Arouna Kone put Wigan ahead after 10 minutes, but Nikica Jelavic headed Everton level less than a minute later. Franco Di Santo restored Wigan's lead in the 23rd, which lasted until Kevin Mirallas was pulled down by Maynor Figueroa for Baines to equalize.

West Brom is level on points with Everton, behind only on goal difference in fourth. Goals from James Morrison, Zoltan Gera and Youssouf Mulumbu secured the win that will add to the pressure on QPR manager Mark Hughes with his team bottom despite an offseason spending spree.

Reading is out of the drop zone but only a point ahead of QPR after first-half goals by Pavel Pogrebnyak and Noel Hunt were wiped out by Miguel Michu and Wayne Routledge in Swansea's stirring comeback to clinch a point.

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