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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cristiano Ronaldo confident United will finish off Inter, Unhappy Hiddink As Chelsea Perform Below Par In A 1 - 0 Victory Over Juventus

Unhappy coach Hiddink lays into underachieving Chelsea stars

Guus Hiddink tore into his underachieving Chelsea stars after they scraped a 1-0 win over Juventus in the Champions League.

Didier Drogba's 12th-minute strike put Chelsea in command of the first leg of this first knockout round tie at Stamford Bridge but they were unable to press home their advantage and will travel to Turin in two weeks time defending a narrow advantage.

Former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri and current boss Guus Hiddink watch on at Stamford Bridge

The old and the new: Former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri and current boss Guus Hiddink watch on at Stamford Bridge

Hiddink was furious that his Chelsea side were unable to break Juve's resistance after Drogba had put them ahead.

The Dutch coach, who has now won his two games in charge of Chelsea 1-0 following the win at Aston Villa, said: 'I am satisfied that we won but overall I am not satisfied with the performance.

'We started well but after the goal we dropped off too far and we were too anxious. Juventus dominated the second half but did not create any danger.

'The tie is evenly balanced but I'm pleased we kept a clean sheet.

'I was not happy with the functionality of the team but we will improve it.'

Didier Drogba

Jumping for joy: Didier Drogba celebrates his superb goal with a giant leap

Hiddink also confirmed that the players he has inherited from Luiz Felipe Scolari are not fit enough to play top-level football and admitted his team tired in the second half against former Chelsea boss Ranieri's ageing Italian team.

Hiddink added: 'They are not at tip-top physical level. They are at a high level of fitness but not near the top for games like this. It is something we will work on.'

Ranieri was greeted by a standing ovation by the Chelsea fans who protested his removal five years ago and despite his team's second-half efforts, that was the highlight of his evening.

'I was extremely happy because it shows that they haven't forgotten me,' said Ranieri.

'People tend to forget very quickly, so I'd like to thank them.'

Source - DailyMail

Frank Lampard praises Chelsea's rearguard action

Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard highlighted the importance of not conceding an away goal after the 1-0 win over Juventus in the first leg of the Champions League last 16.

Didier Drogba scored the only goal in the first half of a closely-fought tie at Stamford Bridge, giving the Blues the upper hand going into the second leg in Turin in a fortnight.

"We created enough chances to score more but it's very important we keep a clean sheet at home,'' Lampard told Sky Sports.

"Juve are a top team. We're past the group stages now and any team you play are going to cause you problems.

"But it's good we didn't concede and we have the chance to go there and cause them some problems.

"It wasn't the best performance over the 90 minutes but it was a big performance and a big result.

"There were patches where we played well. We started very well but at times we maybe sat off a little bit.''

Drogba insisted his timely return to form was not down to new boss Guus Hiddink taking over from Luiz Felipe Scolari.

"No, no, I don't think it's because of a change of manager,'' he said.

"We did our best. It was a difficult game and we created chances to score more but it's a good result.

"We need to improve a lot of things but it's good for the team that we have players who can make a difference and score goals.''

Hiddink was not totally satisfied despite the win, although he accepted Juventus did not make it easy for his team.

"We started very well and for the first 20 minutes we were pressing well and scored a very good goal,'' said the Dutch coach.

"We should have scored at least one more to give ourselves a bit of a breather because, let's be honest, in the last period of the game we suffered a lot.

"What I like and what I think we still have to work on a lot is to have more control even in these tough games.

"It's not an easy team to play against, Juventus. They can play very well in between your defensive and midfield line. So it's very difficult to play them.

"But, nevertheless, we should have controlled more and that's what I didn't like about the last part of the game.''

Jose Mourinho: Rearguard action was a necessary tactic

Jose Mourinho has revealed he had to play a rearguard action against Manchester United at the San Siro to protect his team from conceding a crucial away goals.

Jose Mourinho celebrates FC Porto's infamous victory at Old Trafford in 2004.

Inter Milan and United are locked at 0-0 after the first leg of their Round of 16 tie, and Mourinho now believes he will be able to continue his fine run of form against Sir Alex Ferguson which has resulted in just one defeat in 13 matches.

The Portuguese coach knows that any goal Inter can muster at Old Trafford will be worth double should the teams finish level meaning his side would then progress on away goals.

With United able to play with pace and power, Mourinho chose to play a containing game in the first half which only just came to fruition as the visitors dominated.

Mourinho will hope Inter can emulate his FC Porto side and knock Manchester United out on their own turf.

"They are a very quick team and we don't have these characteristics,'' he explained. "The only reason I lost only once against Manchester United is that I understood this immediately.

"If they had scored in the first half, the situation would have been harder for us and, for this, it is not an easy decision to make to sit deep and try to block them.''

Mourinho apologised to his team's fans for the fact the game ended goalless, but he still thinks they will thank him in the long run for not going gung-ho against the Red Devils.

And he seems to have got the hang of the tactical dependency of Italian football.

"It is a shame for the fans who have come here and seen a 0-0, but it was still a high quality game,'' he said. "If we had played further up the field, then it gives us more options in attack, but it leaves us more room behind.

"They are quick on the wing, but then so too are (Davide) Santon and Maicon, who are truly fast.

"Is it better to have (Sulley) Muntari and (Javier) Zanetti covering for them or pressing (Darren) Fletcher a bit higher up the field? It is not an easy game, but it is a beautiful one.''

Meanwhile, UEFA is considering disciplinary action against Mourinho after his post-match allegations of refereeing bias.

"We are looking into the comments along with our disciplinary department," a spokesman for European soccer's governing body said on Wednesday.

Following the first knockout round, first leg encounter, Mourinho said he was unhappy with Spanish referee Luis Medina Catalejo particularly over his dismissal of a penalty claim by Inter striker Adriano.

"If we have a referee that gives the same protection to the away team (at Old Trafford), we will go into the quarter-final," Mourinho told reporters.

Cristiano Ronaldo confident United will finish off Inter

Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo has insisted the club are on track for the Champions League quarter-finals after being held to a 0-0 draw by Inter Milan in the San Siro.

The Portuguese star insisted that United were the better team and have what it takes to finish off the job back at Old Trafford in two weeks' time.

"We played better than Inter last night,'' said Ronaldo. "We created more chances, especially in the first half, and we deserved to win. At home I feel we have a better chance.

"I don't know whether Inter will be a better team in Manchester. We respect them but in my opinion we have a better chance at Old Trafford because we have a better team.''

Ronaldo was not too down heartened despite finding goalkeeper Julio Cesar in top form.

"It is not a concern, it happens sometimes,'' he said. "Their goalkeeper made so many great saves but overall it was a fantastic performance. The lads were brilliant and I am very proud to have been part of a team that played like that.

"I know we didn't score but if we play like that in the second leg, I think we will win.''

Source - Soccernet

Madrid caught by Benayoun sucker punch

Wednesday 25 February 2009
Match report by Chris Burke from Santiago Bernabéu
Yossi Benayoun heads in the winner
Yossi Benayoun heads in the winner (©Getty Images)

Liverpool FC hold the whip hand in this tie after Yossi Benayoun secured the Premier League side a famous 1-0 victory at the Santiago Bernabéu, leaving Real Madrid CF with it all to do if they are to seize a UEFA Champions League quarter-final berth at Anfield on 10 March.

Tense encounter
Benayoun decided a tense first leg with a header after 82 minutes, rising unmarked to direct Fábio Aurélio's free-kick past Iker Casillas. It capped a resilient performance from Rafael Benítez's charges, who began the game a little wastefully but grew in confidence as the clock ran down.

Gerrard absence
Steven Gerrard's absence from the Liverpool starting lineup undoubtedly gave Madrid a pre-match boost. The sizzling atmosphere cannot have hurt either as the men in white made early inroads. An Arjen Robben through ball almost led to an opening goal after five minutes and, although Pepe Reina denied Raúl González, an early pattern had emerged. Madrid were dominating possession and hunting down openings, while the visitors lost the ball too easily and looked increasingly resigned to a night of defending.

Liverpool chances
When a first chance did arise for the Reds, it sprung from a lapse at the back, the Madrid defensive line failing to intercept a long clearance towards Fernando Torres, who strode forward and forced Casillas into a fine reaction save from close range. The Spain goalkeeper was called into action shortly afterwards too, as Benayoun collected another long pass down the right and tried, unsuccessfully, to beat him with a lob.

Those counterpunches restored some balance before Madrid had the ball in the net with half an hour gone, only for Gonzalo Higuaín's header to be disallowed for offside. Marcelo and Robben then fired wide, as did Higuaín following a surging run, yet Liverpool's dogged tackling kept them competitive and Reina did the rest, showing good reflexes to deny Robben via Albert Riera's outstretched leg. Closing out the half, Xabi Alonso tested Casillas from within his own half to restate the visitors' attacking threat.

Robben danger
The Liverpool midfielder was less accurate from significantly closer when he tried his luck again after the restart, with Madrid's own No14, the fit-again Guti, now on in place of Marcelo. Robben shifted to the left to accommodate the newcomer, but the winger continued to enjoy a free role and shot wide from the right. Both coaches had predicted a tight affair and they were being proved right, with neither team able to establish genuine supremacy as time ticked down. In terms of individuals, Robben remained the danger man for the hosts and Benayoun made some good runs for Liverpool, with Torres subdued after receiving a knock and eventually replaced by Ryan Babel.

Benayoun goal
The greater urgency unsurprisingly belonged to Madrid, eager to build a first-leg lead, but after yet another Robben effort – the Dutchman unleashing a powerful strike that Reina tipped over – Benayoun had the final, and potentially decisive, word. The entrance of Gerrard at the end merely capped a memorable night for the noisy travelling supporters, although Riera will be suspended for the second leg.

Source -