• Chelsea manager dismissed for encroaching on the pitch
• 'I don't think this result makes any difference to the title race'
The title race is wide open again after Chelsea lost three points and most of their composure in the dying minutes of their 1-0 defeat at Villa Park, where José Mourinho was dismissed along with two of his players.
Mourinho has previous with the Merseyside referee Chris Foy, who has now sent off six players and dispatched the manager in his past eight games involving Chelsea. The Portuguese was incensed at being dismissed for encroaching on the pitch in the melee that followed Ramires' late red card for a stamp on Karim El Ahmadi because he said, with some justification, that he was not the only one. But he will be waiting anxiously to see what Foy mentions in his report. He admitted he had attempted to speak to the referee immediately after the game but denied reports that he and John Terry had tried to force their way into the referee's room.
"I want to know what Mr Foy will write about my sending-off," the Chelsea manager said. "Because if I was sent off for being on the pitch there were about 10 others doing the same. My assistants were on the pitch, Paul [Lambert] was on the pitch with his assistants, and [Gabriel] Agbonlahor came from the dugout and grabbed Ramires by the neck.
"So why were none of the others sent off? I don't expect to be punished because I did nothing. I did try twice to speak to Mr Foy, first on the pitch and then in the dressing room area. I asked politely if I could have five seconds to speak with him and he refused."
As Mourinho is probably aware there is a convention that managers should not attempt to speak to officials immediately after the final whistle, but should allow a cooling-off period first. Mourinho was dismissed when tempers were fraying on the pitch but insists he had collected himself afterwards and was merely seeking an explanation. "Everyone was calm, no one was screaming," he said. "This is not about a convention, just common sense."
Mourinho took a dim view of an incident in the first half when Foy could have dismissed Joe Bennett but let him escape with a yellow, the Chelsea manager leaping to his feet to brandish an imaginary red card. He was probably right to feel Willian was harshly treated in earning a second yellow for a slight tug on Fabian Delph, scorer of the game's only goal, but could not possibly have defended the action that brought Ramires a deserved straight red. "That was a shocker," Lambert said. "It was a no-brainer for the referee, it could've been a leg-breaker. If anyone says otherwise I beg to differ." Mourinho, quite cutely, declined to discuss either incident because he did not want to get into any more trouble.
When the dust finally settled Chelsea were left with nine men and no more points than they had started out with, whereas Manchester City's performance with 10 men at Hull has put them back in control in the title race. Mourinho has been saying all along that a nine-point lead counts for nothing when City have three games in hand, so clearly a six-point lead counts for even less. If City win all their remaining games, and unlike Chelsea they now have only the league on which to concentrate, they will eventually regain the leadership.
"I don't think this result makes any difference to the title race because we are not in the title race," Mourinho said, not entirely convincingly. "All we are trying to do is win every match. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't, but that's our race."