Chelsea captain John Terry put the controversy over his private life to one side by scoring the winner in a 2-1 victory at Burnley as his side went four points clear at the top of the Premier League.
‘Dad of the year’ Terry in scandal
Terry, whose position as England captain was called into question after newspapers published details of his alleged affair with the ex-girlfriend of former Blues team-mate Wayne Bridge, scored eight minutes from time on Saturday when he headed in a corner for only his second goal this season.
But despite the controversy surrounding his alleged extra-marital affair with the ex-girlfriend of a former Chelsea team-mate, the Premier League leaders insisted they had no qualms about selecting him to play against Burnley on Saturday.
“John has got his football head on,” Chelsea assistant manager Ray Wilkins told ESPN shortly before kick-off at Turf Moor.
“He is a fantastic professional as far as the footballing side of his life is concerned,” former England midfielder Wilkins added.
Terry, 29, who was voted Britain’s Dad of the Year last year in a sponsored survey, has two children with his wife Toni.
The central defender was named on Friday as the sportsman behind a gagging injunction involving his private life.
A judge at London’s High Court subsequently lifted the order and Saturday’s papers alleged Terry had an affair with the ex-girlfriend of former Chelsea team-mate Wayne Bridge, Vanessa Perroncel.
Bridge, in a statement issued through his lawyer, said Saturday: “I have read the press reporting in the last two days. The reports deal with matters which are of a deeply personal and private nature.
“My primary concern is the welfare of my son. Therefore, I intend to make no comment whatsoever either now or in the future about these reports and ask that my privacy is respected,” added Bridge, who now plays for Manchester City.
Newspaper chatter no issue for Chelsea team
Nicolas Anelka had given Chelsea a 27th-minute lead at Turf Moor when the France striker turned in Florent Malouda’s cross while, seven minutes later, Terry was booked for a clumsy challenge on Robbie Blake.
Relegation candidates Burnley levelled in the 50th minute when a ball over the top of Alex found Steven Fletcher who beat the defender before shooting past Petr Cech.
Chelsea’s victory means they will still be top of the table regardless of the result of Sunday’s clash between title rivals Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium.
Liverpool stay one behind Spurs
Earlier, Tottenham stayed fourth with a 1-1 draw at Birmingham.
But Spurs’ rivals for a place in next season’s Champions League, Liverpool and Aston Villa, both won to keep up the pressure.
Liverpool beat Bolton 2-0 to stay a point adrift of Spurs with Villa, who have a game in hand, two points behind after defeating Fulham by the same scoreline in a match where Gabriel Agbonlahor scored both goals.
Cahill secures Everton win
At the other end of the table, second from bottom Hull failed to climb out of the relegation zone after a 2-2 draw with Wolves.
Everton made it four league wins from five with a 1-0 victory away to Wigan, with Socceroo Tim Cahill nabbing the winner, while Blackburn Rovers and West Ham shared the points in a goalless draw.
Spurs’ Jermain Defoe broke the deadlock at St Andrews when he blasted the ball past Joe Hart with 21 minutes left.
But Birmingham rescued a point through Liam Ridgewell’s 90th minute equaliser.
“We deserved to win but the goal we gave away was horrendous,” said Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp.
Kuyt puts Liverpool ahead, Agbonlahor clinical for Villa
At Anfield, Dirk Kuyt put Liverpool ahead eight minutes before half-time.
Liverpool went 2-0 up when Emiliano Insua’s 25-yard shot took a huge deflection off Bolton’s Kevin Davies for a 70th minute own-goal.
“I am pleased with the result and the second half but not too happy with the first half – but at the end of the day we needed to win and we won,” said Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez.
Agbonlahor put Villa in front five minutes before half-time at Craven Cottage when he headed past Fulham’s Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.
And there was still time for Agbonlahor to make it 2-0 ahead of the interval when, in the 44th minute, he curled a shot past Schwarzer from 15 yards.
Villa manager Martin O’Neill said Agbonlahor deserved his double after a frustrating match during the midweek goalless draw with Arsenal.
“Gabriel taking those two goals today were as much about his performance against Arsenal on Wednesday night. He got his deserts today and he was fantastic,” said the Villa manager.
At the KC Stadium, former Celtic striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink fired Hull into an 11th minute lead with a 20-yard shot.
But Wolves were level four minutes after half-time after a comical own-goal where Hull’s Anthony Gardner sliced an unthreatening Ronald Zubar cross over the head of goalkeepeer Boaz Myhill.
However, minutes later Hull were back in front when Stephen Hunt scored from the penalty spot after Zubar jumped into Jozy Altidore only for Matthew Jarvis to draw Wolves level in the 67th minute.
Tim Cahill was once again Everton’s star as the Australia midfielder headed in his sixth goal of the season six minutes from time away to Wigan.
Sunday’s other top-flight match sees Manchester City looking to bounce back from their League Cup semi-final loss to Manchester United at home to bottom-of-the-table Portsmouth.
Sunderland and Stoke meet on Monday.