'Old guard' star in Chelsea win

Didier Drogba of Chelsea shoots to score the opening goal as Adriano Correia of Barcelona closes induring the UEFA Champions League Semi Final first leg match between Chelsea and Barcelona at Stamford Bridge on April 18, 2012 in London, England.
Didier Drogba of Chelsea shoots to score the opening goal as Adriano Correia of Barcelona closes induring the UEFA Champions League Semi Final first leg match between Chelsea and Barcelona at Stamford Bridge on April 18, 2012 in London, England. Getty Images

ROBERTO Di Matteo paid tribute to Chelsea's "old guard" for answering their critics last night after Didier Drogba's goal gave them a crucial 1-0 lead over Barcelona going into Tuesday's Champions League semi-final second leg.

In Chelsea's third win over Barcelona in the Roman Abramovich era, Drogba, John Terry and Ashley Cole summoned up a performance redolent of the best of the Jose Mourinho years to shut out the defending champions and clear favourites for the competition.

"In the past, a lot of the public opinion has been that these boys are over the line, too old to play two games, and to play at this level," the Chelsea caretaker manager said of witnessing excellent performances from his older players, three days after they turned on the style in the FA Cup semi-final win over Tottenham Hotspur.

"It wasn't just him [Drogba]. There were other players on the pitch that you regard as the old guard who can't play two games in such a short period of time," Di Matteo added. "But they gave an answer on the pitch tonight."

Chief among those who did not believe the likes of Frank Lampard and Drogba were capable of playing such high-intensity games so close together was Andre Villas-Boas, from whom Di Matteo took over last month, having previously been assistant manager.

The Italian was keen to acknowledge that every player had contributed to the performance. "I talk about the team," he said. "You talk about them as the old guard. We have a team, a good team spirit, a good team ethic. Young and old stay together in this team and fight for the same target. That's what I think."

Barcelona dominated possession in a tight game, but Drogba scored the only goal in first-half added time. Alexis Sanchez and Pedro both hit the woodwork but Chelsea's defensive 4-5-1 system was successful in limiting Barcelona's chances.

"It was almost perfect," Di Matteo said of his players' discipline and organisation. "The quality of Barcelona and their style of play is to keep possession. But we looked very organised and the boys were really determined not to let them through. I thought there was a tremendous effort tonight."

Di Matteo denied that Barcelona's domination meant that they deserved to win. "When you score a goal and you win the game, you deserve to win it," he argued. "Certainly, they have had more possession and a few more attempts on target, but they always have that. You need to be clinical to take your chances when you play against them. You know you'll get some chances, and you have to take them."

Despite having the lead, and not having conceded an away goal, Di Matteo said that the tie was still even. "I don't think it makes us favourites," he said. "It's 50-50 to go through to the final. You know what to expect when you play at Nou Camp. It'll be very, very difficult and we still have to believe that we might be able to score a goal there as well. It'll be a tough game. It is for any team going to Barcelona. We'll have to give our best again."

The Barcelona coach, Pep Guardiola, disagreed. "Now the favourites are Chelsea," he said. "They have a good result. But, at least we have a challenge to play 90 minutes. In that time, we'll create as many chances as possible. But 1-0 is a very, very good result for them. They're the favourites."

Guardiola predicted a similar contest in Catalonia. "It won't be simple," he said. "They'll have 10 men behind the ball, they'll defend, they're stronger than us, they run, run, run, they jump more than us. But we have to try and take the game under control and discover a way of scoring the goals."

Both sides have difficult games beforehand. Chelsea travel to Arsenal on Saturday, while Barça host Real Madrid in an el clasico that evening.

Topics:  barcelona fc chelsea fc european champions league

Young Maryborough criminal's future looks 'bleak'

Richard William Kraudalt's life has been labelled as "tragic".

International Space Station will be seen from Fraser Coast

This International Space Station photo was snapped from a Pt Vernon backyard.

Tonight is the night to see something out of this world.

New chairs to make hospital stay more comfortable

Dr Ian Truscott rests on one of the new overnighter  chairs, watched by asset officer Maree Dollen and Auxiliary members Doreen Smith, June McLachlan, Marjory Williams and Christine Lee.

The donation worth almost $13,000.

Local Partners

Jake left broken-hearted by Bachelorette break-up

Jake Ellis is one of the final three bachelors on The Bachelorette.

GEORGIA chooses Lee and Matty J as her final two suitors.

MOVIE REVIEW: Doctor Strange is out there in a good way

Benedict Cumberbatch in a scene from the movie Doctor Strange.

MARVEL'S new superhero takes viewers along on his mind trip.

MOVIE REVIEW: Jack Reacher sequel falls flat

Tom Cruise in a scene from the movie Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.

THE film's title Never Go Back should serve as a warning to fans.

Hervey Bay to Hollywood: dreams do come true

No Caption

She graduated from the Amercial Musical and Dramatic Academy.

The Bachelor contestants find love with each other

Former Bachelor contestants Megan Marx and Tiffany Scanlon have confirmed their relationship on social media.

MEGAN Marx and Tiffany Scanlon confirm relationship on Instagram.

Liam Payne wants to wed Cheryl Fernandez-Versini

Cheryl Fernandez-Versini and Liam Payne

Liam Payne reportedly wants to marry Cheryl Fernandez-Versini

Tough times in CBD: Woolies says goodbye Ipswich

Woolworths in the Ipswich Mall.Photo: Rob Williams / The Queensland Times

The last day of trading will be January 1

Look at me! Kath and Kim home up for sale

Kath and Kim from the iconic Aussie TV series.

'Crack open the Baileys and grab a box of BBQ Shapes'

How to fit 100,000 new homes on the Coast

Property, real estate, housing, suburb,  August 2016

Fitting 2m extra people in south-east Qld in 25 years a balance

Hinterland horse stud passed in for $8.25 million

UNREAL: This Maleny estate is incredible.

12-bedroom hinterland horse stud still available

Hit songwriter's Noosa mansion on market

SPECIAL PLACE: The Cintamani estate is going to tender, marketed by Tom Offermann Real Estate.

Is this Queensland's best property?

Kiwi siblings snap up Dotcom mansion for $32.5m

The new toy company owners of the Coatesville mansion want replace any controversy with positivity and fun. Photo / Barfoot and Thompson

The trio paid $32.5 million for the property in June