Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink said his side improved as the game went on as they twice came from behind to secure a 2-2 draw at Juventus that took them through to the Champions League quarter-finals 3-2 on aggregate.
The Dutchman had special praise for Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Michael Essien while Juve coach Claudio Ranieri was left to count the cost of their failure to score in the first leg at Stamford Bridge.
“We started the match slowly and in the opening minutes Juventus easily got past our defence and scored their first goal,” said Hiddink. “The team didn’t react well immediately, but we grew as time went on and luckily we made it 1-1 through Essien just before the break.
“In the second half we controlled the game much more and even after [Alessandro Del Piero’s] penalty the team reacted well, scoring a beautiful goal through Didier Drogba. He is a very important player for us as he scores and helps the team when we are defending.
“Nicolas Anelka was also very important tonight, as he kept two defenders busy even though he hadn’t trained much in recent days. I’m very happy for Essien, too. He played very well and scored a goal, even though he was not able to play at a high level for the whole match due to his physical condition.
“Playing here against Juventus was not easy, but I’m really satisfied with the way we reacted in the difficult moments of the match, especially after Juve’s goals.
A disappointed Ranieri said that Juve paid a heavy price for their failure to grab an away goal in the first leg.
“We lost the opportunity to reach the quarter-finals at Stamford Bridge as we didn’t manage to score and in this kind of competition it is very important to find the net away from home,” said Ranieri.
“I want to thank the team for the great commitment they showed tonight and also the fans, who gave us their support until the end. We lost against a great team, the same squad that reached the final last year. They proved to have something more than Juventus – this doesn’t mean that my men weren’t good enough, and if we had reached the quarter finals instead of Chelsea it would not have been a scandal.
“In the second half I brought on [Sebastian] Giovinco in place of [Vincenzo] Iaquinta because we needed to play down the flanks more, as we were losing all the challenges in the air.
“He had a pretty good match and his arrival gave new strength to the team. Unfortunately, Essien’s goal at the end of the first half was a huge blow for us and even though the team reacted well after the break, scoring again from the penalty, the red card shown to [Giorgio] Chiellini definitely ended our attempt at the impossible.”