Cech: Title dreams over
Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech has admitted that the goalless draw against Everton on Wednesday night has finally put an end to their title hopes.
The Blues failed to break down a stubborn Everton rearguard and, although Cech returned to his best form, the draw left them six points adrift of leaders Manchester United, who also have a game in hand. It was only the second time in Guus Hiddink's spell in charge Chelsea had dropped league points and, although the Blues kept their first clean sheet in five games, the result was a massive disappointment to the players.
"Mathematically, it is not finished but we have to be realistic and I can hardly see Man United dropping nine points for us to go in front and we can't forget we are a few points behind Liverpool, who are closer," said Cech. "If Man United slip and have a bad spell, we are not the closest one to gain from that, so I think now, with their one game in hand, it is stretched too far in front of us."
Cech's superb display against Everton silenced his critics as he twice denied Everton striker Jo and midfielder Tim Cahill. The Czech international had been criticised for his performances in the three previous games, which saw Chelsea concede eight goals.
There was more good news for the Chelsea keeper after a late collision with Everton forward Jo left him grounded. What first appeared as a nasty blow to the head turned out to be only a bloody nose and Cech expects to be fit to face West Ham tomorrow.
"I got a knock on the nose so it is sore but nothing too dramatic," added Cech. "I knew that we were going to clash because the ball didn't bounce too high or low - I knew I had to put my head in there, it was the only way I could get to the ball first. As soon as I headed the ball I put my arm across to protect myself. But that stopped him from moving and he did the same thing, so his elbow caught me straight on the nose."
Meanwhile, midfielder Michael Ballack is astonished Frank Lampard has not been shortlisted for the Professional Footballers' Association's player of the year award. Lampard produced another fine performance against the Toffees but could not unlock their stubborn defence.
However, the England international set up both goals as Chelsea beat Arsenal at Wembley on Saturday to reach the FA Cup final and was inspirational in their dramatic 4-4 draw with Liverpool that saw Chelsea progress to the Champions League semi-finals.
"Frank has played consistently at a high level all season," said Ballack. "I don't know why he was not nominated but at Chelsea we know how good he is and that is all that matters."
The players voted for the PFA award at the end of January and the six-man shortlist is dominated by Manchester United players. The winner is announced on Sunday and Nemanja Vidic, Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand, Edwin van der Sar and last year's winner, Cristiano Ronaldo, are all in the running, along with Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard.