Jose Mourinho believes there is plenty of room for improvement in his Chelsea side, yet the manager is not surprised that his side are within reach of the Barclays Premier League summit on Christmas Day. “Every game is very hard. The distances (between clubs in the table) they open and they close, they open, they close. “Of course we go there to try to win and we go there with the objective of being top of the league, but if we don’t, I don’t think it’s crucial.” Mourinho recognised Palace could trouble his side, who continued to lack the ruthless streak City have demonstrated at home despite extending their own formidable record at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea are now unbeaten in 16 league matches at home, as Mourinho’s record was extended to 68 undefeated. The Portuguese added: “I was expecting an easy victory; I was expecting big problems. I was ready for both things. “When I was reading the game and analysing the situation I was feeling the game could go in both directions. “You score a goal that kills the opponent, 2-0 or 3-1, the game is over and you can go to a different result. “When you don’t do that, I knew they were a team who would give problems. “For me, this result could be 5-1, could be 2-2.” Palace have now won two of Tony Pulis’ four matches in charge to return to the pack after appearing likely to be cast adrift. Pulis said: “To be in the game for 94 minutes is testament to the commitment and the effort. “The important thing is that the lads keep believing that we have got a chance and that we keep playing with that spirit and commitment.” The former Stoke boss reserved special praise for the Palace goalscorer. “I thought when we got it to Chamakh we played some good stuff,” Pulis added. “Chamakh slows it down for us, gets a pass off and gives us time to get runners up the pitch. “(Yannick) Bolasie came on and was a threat, (Jason) Puncheon was a threat and Cameron Jerome was smashing. There’s a threat there.” Contrary to outside perceptions, Chamakh has applied himself well under Pulis. The Welshman added: “The lads have bought into what we’re trying to do. The most important thing is to galvanise a spirit within a football club. “Marouane has bought into that. You’ve seen the quality, he’s a top player. Wenger doesn’t buy players who can’t play. The kid can play. “It’s helped, I think, that he’s been given the responsibility to play just off the striker, where he’s got more room and space and he hasn’t got his back to play all the time.” Press Association Chelsea made hard work of a 2-1 win over relegation-threatened Crystal Palace after Fernando Torres’ opener was cancelled out by Marouane Chamakh, with Ramires netting what proved to be the winner in the first half. Mourinho’s men are now within two points of leaders Arsenal, who lost at Manchester City earlier on Saturday, and can assume the Premier League lead by winning at the Emirates Stadium on December 23. Mourinho, who watched most of the second half of the match at the Etihad Stadium prior to kick-off at Stamford Bridge, said: “I’m not surprised because it’s our nature. It’s in this club’s DNA over the years to try to fight for trophies. “It’s my way of work, too; it’s the mentality we want the players to have. “We all know that this is a transitional period, we all know that we have just a few players from the winning side from the past. We all know we have lots of young talent to improve. “I believe in another club with a different profile everybody would say ‘okay, let’s work and wait calmly, the results will come in the near future’. “We are not like that. We want to build, but at the same time we want to fight for titles. And in this moment in the Premier League we are there, two points behind the leader in a group that is there.” Whether Chelsea do assume pole position by Christmas is not significant, according to the Portuguese. “It’s not important,” Mourinho said. “In this league to be top of the league by December or even by the end of January, I don’t think is crucial. I think this will be open till very, very late.
Facebook Twitter Google+ HAMILTON, N.Y. — As field temperatures approached triple digits at Beyer-Small ’76 Field, Syracuse’s depth was tested.It came through for the Orange (2-1-2), though, as SU pressed and subbed heavily in its 4-0 victory over UMass-Lowell (2-3) Friday in the Colgate Nike Classic.“Our game was to press them 100 percent as long as we could,” SU midfielder Emma Firenze said. “Our coaches said we were going to rotate a lot of players to keep the pace.”Firenze was one of seven players to come off the bench in the first half as she joined forward Maya Pitts at the forefront of SU’s four-goal outing. Pitts registered four shots and used her speed and agility to stretch the UMass-Lowell back line while fellow strikers Alexis Koval and Sheridan Street each came off the bench and recorded a shot.Pitts entered the match for Alex Lamontagne at 20:40 of the first half and immediately took hold. On the first offensive possession after she entered, Pitts rushed down the left wing and sent a through ball for Firenze that skimmed just out of reach.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“We had to get fresh legs in. I think the bench did a really good job coming in and making an impact,” Pitts said. “We definitely had the space to shoot, so if I saw I had an open shot, I wanted to take it. There were just so many shots open that we had to take our advantages.”At 23:57, Pitts took a shot from straight on that was turned aside by River Hawks’ goalkeeper Jill Carlson. Three minutes later – one minute before Jackie Firenze scored to make it 1-0 – Pitts took another shot that sailed wide.“She gives us something that we don’t have in other spots,” head coach Phil Wheddon said of Pitts. “She’s strong, powerful, she looks for the goal. She’s hungry to score.”Because of the heat, after Firenze’s goal, the referees chose to take a water break. But after the short break, Syracuse couldn’t muster much production in the final third. Especially in the final ten minutes of the half, SU couldn’t connect on any combination plays.But Syracuse took full advantage of the halftime break. The Orange didn’t come onto the field until the halftime clock hit 0:00, and didn’t come off its bench until the referee blew his air horn twice.“You really have to play feet and try to get your breath when you can, and when you do get subbed off, hydrate,” Pitts said. “In the second half I think we all came out hydrated and refreshed and came out strong.”In the first five minutes of the second half, SU forward Stephanie Skilton scored twice, putting the game out of reach.SU didn’t make any substitutions before Lamontagne’s goal to extend the lead to 4-0. Emma Firenze and Pitts came on in the 66th and 71st minutes, respectively, and Koval came on to relieve Skilton with less than eight minutes remaining in regulation.Syracuse’s bench recorded 26 percent of the shots the team took and gave its starters much-needed breathers in the first half.“We had to be sensible on a very, very hot day to rotate those players to make sure we have some energy left for Sunday’s game (against Vermont at 11 a.m.),” Wheddon said. “And all of our players know they’re going to contribute at some point.” Comments Published on September 5, 2014 at 7:49 pm Contact Josh: firstname.lastname@example.org