Norwich 0 Chelsea 1: Mata is one of Premier League’s best, says Benítez
Norwich 0 Chelsea 1: Rafael Benítez reserves praise for Juan Mata after Spaniard's goal earns Chelsea victory at Norwich
Rafael Benítez reserved special praise for Juan Mata after the Spaniard’s first-half goal earned Chelsea victory at Norwich City on Wednesday.
The Spain international netted the Blues’ eventual winner seven minutes before half-time at Carrow Road with a superb 25-yard strike as Chelsea were largely untroubled by a misfiring Norwich.
The win moves the west Londoners to within four points of second-placed Manchester City, who have played a game more than the Blues.
And Benítez admitted that he has been thrilled with Mata’s impact since he took charge at Stamford Bridge after watching the 24-year-old score his 13th goal of the season.
“Mata is a player that is very dangerous in the box and outside,” said the Chelsea interim boss. “He is in form and we are really pleased with him.
“He is doing really well, even without the ball he is working hard and in possession he is making the difference.
“He is clever, has clever movement and can play high or deeper. He goes to the right spaces and makes it difficult for defenders and midfielders.
“The Premier League has a lot of good players, he is one of the best for sure but it depends on the rest of the team.”
Benítez has been encouraged by Chelsea’s recent displays after the Blues bounced back from their Club World Cup final defeat by Corinthians by notching up three straight wins.
However, the Spaniard believes there is still significant room for improvement from his side.
“We are in a good position,” he added. “It could be better but I think we are doing well in the last month and the team is progressing.
“We can manage different games and still get the result and that’s important. We showed we can defend and work hard in difficult conditions. We’re in a good position but we will still try to improve.
“It is a question of keeping training and playing, and it is positive because the players want to improve things and move forward.”