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Sunday 20 May 2012

Di Matteo hails 'immense' Chelsea effort

Interim manager revels in Blues' first UEFA Champions League triumph

Didier Drogba helped secure Chelsea's first UEFA Champions League triumph

Chelsea interim manager Roberto di Matteo hailed the 'immense effort' which sealed the club's first UEFA Champions League triumph.

The Italian said the Blues' 4-3 dramatic win on penalties over Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga club's home city on Saturday evening showed how "crazy and unpredictable" football could be.

"We have a group of players that have a big heart, passion, motivation and desire"
- Roberto di Matteo

Chelsea were staring at another heartbreaking UEFA Champions League final defeat after Thomas Muller's 83rd-minute header put Bayern ahead.

With memories of their narrow loss to Manchester United in Moscow in 2008 looming large, Didier Drogba headed the equaliser with two minutes to go - and the Ivorian struck the winning penalty after the match finished 1-1.

Di Matteo said: "Football is crazy and unpredictable and I don't think anybody could have predicted what has happened in the last three months.

"I feel great and I'm pleased for everyone connected with the club."

He added: "The club has waited a long time. We have a group of players that have a big heart, passion, motivation and desire.

"That was the only way to be able to achieve this trophy. It's been an immense effort by the whole group – staff, players – and we are very happy."

Speculation

Di Matteo admitted there would be speculation about his future as Chelsea boss, but said: "[It] is not important. Whatever the club decides I will respect. You know that what we discuss with the boss [Roman Abramovich] we don't discuss publicly.

"It is irrelevant because, as I have said in the last three months, I have been happy with the arrangement and whatever the future holds I will accept."

Saturday's victory completed a remarkable turnaround after a turbulent campaign which saw former manager Andre Villas-Boas dismissed in early March after an indifferent run of form.

"I believe a lot in destiny. I pray a lot. It was written a long time ago"
- Didier Drogba

After Di Matteo took over, results improved - including a remarkable 4-1 UEFA Champions League home triumph over Napoli to secure a 5-4 aggregate win after losing the first leg 3-1.

Striker Drogba said he felt it was Chelsea's destiny to win this year's competition.

"I believe a lot in destiny. I pray a lot. It was written a long time ago. God is wonderful. This team is amazing," he said.

"I want to dedicate this Cup to all our managers and players before. It [the goal] changed the game mentally. I'm very happy. Life is fantastic."

Goalkeeper Petr Cech, who saved a penalty from former Chelsea star Arjen Robben in extra-time and another from Ivica Olic in the shoot-out, said: "It was a rollercoaster ride, we all enjoyed it.

"When our backs are against the wall we step up to the mark"
- John Terry

"When it goes to extra-time there is pressure and I thought Robben would go for power and shoot that way.

"Today I faced six penalties and six times I went the right way. "

Chelsea captain John Terry got to lift the trophy despite watching the match from the stands after picking up a suspension for the final by being sent off in the remarkable second leg of the semi-final against Barcelona.

It was a very different experience for the England defender than in Moscow in 2008 in which he missed a penalty in the shoot-out which would have won the trophy.

"It's probably harder watching," admitted Terry.

"The lads were fantastic from start to finish.

"When our backs are against the wall we step up to the mark."

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Key Points

  • Chelsea boss Roberto di Matteo hails 'immense' effort from players
  • Boss not discussing his future after UEFA Champions League triumph
  • Striker Drogba says victory over Bayern Munich was club's 'destiny'