Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas claimed his team are back in the Premier League title race following their last-gasp 2-1 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Frank Lampard’s dramatic 89th-minute goal eased the pressure on Villas-Boas as Chelsea ended a four-game winless streak at Molineux.
Although still eight points off top spot having played a match more than the two Manchester clubs, Villas-Boas backtracked on his previous suggestion that his team are out of the title reckoning following a weekend of shocks at the summit.
“If we go on a winning streak of five or six games, which we are capable of, we can still be fighting for this league,” Villas-Boas said. “What December proved is that the top teams can drop points. Maybe the 90 points margin becomes a little bit unreal bearing in mind the happenings at the top of the table.”
However, match-winner Lampard admitted he was lucky to escape a red card for a first-half lunge at Adam Hammill which earned him only a booking.
“My heart was in my mouth,” Lampard said. “There was honestly no malice, but I was late and I might have been lucky to stay on the pitch. I said straightaway to Hammill I was very sorry.”
Brazil midfielder Ramires had struck in the 54th minute to hand the Blues the lead, yet Stephen Ward looked to have rescued a point for the home team with an 84th-minute equalizer.
Having gained just three points from their previous four league matches, the victory was a significant boost for both the Blues and their manager, who now called for his team to string together a run of victories.
“Our best period of the season is three wins and a draw, and it’s not good enough. We need to get a quick streak of wins,” Villas-Boas said.
Six of Chelsea’s players headed straight for the visiting dug-out to embrace with their under-pressure manager after Ramires’ goal, but Villas-Boas insisted afterwards he was unaware the celebration was coming.
Rather than criticize referee Peter Walton’s decision not to send off Lampard, Wolves manager McCarthy was more incensed with his defense for the lapse in concentration which allowed the midfielder to arrive in the box unmarked to meet Ashley Cole’s cross.
“I am livid we conceded the goal we did,” McCarthy said. “Whether Lampard should have been on the field is irrelevant for the defending. Defend the bleeding cross. I had a proper snarl in the dressing room because that is not acceptable for me. It was professional suicide. You should have seen the happy Mick McCarthy rather than the grizzly, if there is such a thing.”