Sport

'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



Date nights under $50

ACCORDING to The Bachelor falling in love involves helicopter rides, private jets, shopping trips, and we mustn’t forget the hot tubs.

Brisbane's arts and culture events centre stage

You loved the film, now you're about to love the musical. Don't miss The Bodyguard The Musical in Brisbane this July.

THE arts and culture events you don't want to miss.

Homewares stores to fulfil your Instagram dreams

No Caption

You too can become an Insta-star with these fab stores.

Top 10 Brisbane experiences to cross off your bucket list

Do yourself a favour and get amongst the food truck scene. Eat Street is a great place to start.

A GOOD bucket list doesn’t have to span continents or cost millions.

Six mega sporting events you need to be at this year

Don't miss all the action trackside this season.

IF THERE is one thing Brisbane does damn well, it’s play host.

Six reasons to get to Brisbane this Autumn

The Brisbane Powerhouse has free comedy on Friday nights.

AUTUMN has to be up there with one of the best seasons of the year.

The best things to do in Brisbane are FREE. Yes, FREE

Mt Coot-tha is a seriously gorgeous way to start your day.

HEADING to the big smoke doesn’t have to come with a big price tag.

Damning council report tabled in parliament

The report's contents led to the dismissal of Fraser Coast CEO Lisa Desmond.

The report was tabled in parliament.

Bay dancer wins prestigious scholarship at M'Boro Eisteddfod

Maddy Challies will spend a week at a professional dance company after winning a scholarship at Maryborough Eisteddfod.

Bay dancer win prestigious scholarship at eisteddfod

Young Wallaroos step it up on hockey arena

HOCKEY PLAYERS: Wallaroos under 6s Brax Brewer, Archer and Oska Axelsen and Ollie Collins.

The awesome foursome proudly represent the Wallaroos under six team.

Local Partners

Rebel Wilson says she didn’t have to lie to make it

I’M not glamorous, but that doesn’t make me a liar: that’s the message from Rebel Wilson on her second day in the witness box.

Bay dancer wins prestigious scholarship at M'Boro Eisteddfod

Maddy Challies will spend a week at a professional dance company after winning a scholarship at Maryborough Eisteddfod.

Bay dancer win prestigious scholarship at eisteddfod

All bets on Judah to win battle to become the Voice

Judah Kelly from The Voice.

Judah Kelly is the clear favourite to win the competition.

Kim Kardashian slammed over Manchester tribute

Kim Kardashian's tribute to Manchester didn't go down well

Top Gun 2 movie is happening, Tom Cruise confirms

Tom Cruise in a scene from the movie Top Gun.

TOM Cruise delights fans with announcement on Sunrise.

The first Baywatch movie reviews are in

From left, Jon Bass, Alex Daddario, Zac Efron, Dwayne Johnson, Kelly Rohrbach, and Ilfenesh Hadera in a scene from the movie Baywatch.

Critics were less than impressed.

Boyfriend loses it over sex lie

Stacey Louise’s sex lie destroys her relationship.

SEVEN Year Switch’s Stacey told a fib about her sex life.

How Toowoomba house prices compare in Australia

For sale sign in front of home.

Here's what $700,000 will buy you in Toowoomba, Brisbane and Sydney

One of Maryborough's most historic homes is still for sale

FULL OF HISTORY: Trisha Moulds is owner of the historic Tinana state known as Rosehill. The beautiful home is currently for sale.

It has been the scene of both joy and tragedies over the years.

The face of the Sunshine Coast's overpriced rental crisis

Alyx Wilson had to rent a $385 unit in Currimundi because the market was too competitive for cheaper rental housing. She is now renting a room from friends who own a house in Currimundi, and says its much more affordable.

Young people feel the strain in competitive, expensive rental market

WATCH: Take a tour of a tradie's dream home

5a Bruce Hiskens Court, Norman Gardens, going for $720,000. INSET: Lea Taylor.

Huge block with potential for anything

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!