Maurizio Sarri insists he will fight to remain Chelsea manager despite fans chanting for him to be sacked during their controversial 2-1 win at Cardiff City on Sunday.
Sarri’s position looked precarious when Chelsea trailed 1-0 against Premier League strugglers Cardiff with just six minutes remaining.
Victor Camarasa’s goal looked likely to dent Chelsea’s pursuit of a top four finish and their supporters’ anger towards Sarri was audible.
But a dubious equaliser from Cesar Azpilicueta, who was clearly offside, and a stoppage-time Ruben Loftus-Cheek winner rescued Sarri’s team, who stay within touching distance of a place in next season’s Champions League.
Asked how he had felt when the chants of “We want Sarri out” rang out from the visiting fans, Sarri said: “I don’t want to answer, but I can understand the reaction of the fans.
“But it was probably best for them to wait until the end of the match.”
Sarri insisted he wouldn’t let the supporters’ abuse drive him out of Stamford Bridge, although he may yet have that decision taken out of his hands if Chelsea fail to qualify for the Champions League.
“I am getting used to this and for me it’s not a big problem. I just have to work to change their opinion,” he said.
“I want to stay here. When I arrived the team were 30 points behind Manchester City. I want to stay and improve results, but it is not easy work.
“At the moment, there is a difference between Manchester City, Liverpool and us.”
The victory keeps Chelsea in sixth place, but only a point behind fourth-placed Manchester United, and may also have emboldened Sarri to launch a staunch defence of his selection decisions.
He began with both Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante on the substitutes’ bench and failed to hand an appearance to in-form England teenager Callum Hudson-Odoi.
“Hazard cannot play 70 matches a season,” added Sarri. “Kante has played a lot of games and in every season there is a moment when you have to give players a rest.”
‘We were lucky’
Azpilicueta’s goal drew anger from Cardiff manager Neil Warnock and Sarri admitted his team had been fortunate that the linesman did not spot that the Chelsea skipper was in an offside position when a corner was flicked on by Marcos Alonso.
“We were lucky with the first goal. But I think we deserved to win,” Sarri said.
“I haven’t see the replay, but Neil told me he was sure he was offside by two yards.
“He told me about the referee’s decision, but I can understand the situation.”
Chelsea looked jaded for the opening 45 minutes and although it was goalless at half-time, they fell behind less than a minute after the re-start.
A half-cleared throw-in allowed Harry Arter to set up Camarasa for a sweetly-struck half volley.
Chelsea’s efforts to find an equaliser were thwarted by a resolute Cardiff until the 84th minute when Azpilicueta struck.
Cardiff’s anger had hardly cooled by the time Loftus-Cheek stooped to head in a cross from Willian.
The result leaves Cardiff five points from safety, although they do have a game in hand on Burnley above them and the two clubs face each other in a crucial fixture in a fortnight.
Cardiff manager Neil Warnock said Azpilicueta’s goal only reinforced the need for the introduction of VAR into the Premier League.
“If anybody was in doubt before today, I think VAR has got to be the answer to help them out. VAR would have sorted the goal out within seconds,” Warnock said.
“We’ve worked on things for the last three weeks and one of them is coming out at corner kicks and leaving a man in.
“The lads have just said ‘what we do now gaffer?’ What’s the point? You’ve got to hope the linesman can see it. It’s soul-destroying really.”