CECH: EFFORT REWARDED
Petr Cech was one of the standout performers for the Blues as we gained an advantage in our Champions League semi-final against Barcelona with a 1-0 first leg win at Stamford Bridge, and the goalkeeper, who made a crucial late save to deny Carles Puyol, believes the victory was merited thanks to the sheer workrate and endeavour displayed throughout the team.
Didier Drogba scored the decisive goal of the game, sweeping home a Ramires cross just before the break, and while Pep Guardiola's side will no doubt feel aggrieved as to how they failed to take something from the match, Cech admitted there was still a long way to go in the tie.
'It was an amazing game from our point of view, we knew it was going to be difficult, we played to our maximum, everybody was on top of their game and we had a little bit of luck,' said the Blues' shot-stopper.
'I think we deserved it because of the way we kept our focus throughout the 90 minutes, we got the reward of a good result, but we know how difficult it was and we are still far away from the job being done.
'It wasn't perfect because they had chances, but we did all we could and there was amazing quality in the team, everybody gave 100 per cent. Tactically we tried to stay organised all the time and we are not used to playing for 90 minutes without the ball, so mentally it's difficult to stay focused.
'We got the goal, went 1-0 up and then it was about our focus and we did what we could. It was fantastic timing because they'd started having lots of chances, but when you play them, every time you have the ball and have a chance to create something you have to go for it because you don't have the ball as much as you would like.
'You need to use the ball well, we had a great counter-attack, they weren't organised and in the end it was a great pass from Ramires to Didier [Drogba], and in front of goal he isn't going to miss.'
With the Spaniards dominating possession for the majority of the game, it was inevitable that the Blues goal would come under siege at various points, and so it proved. Both Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas should have scored before the break, while Pedro hit the post in added time.
Cech, meanwhile, so often the man for the big occasion, proved his worth by saving well from Andres Iniesta in the first half, before denying Adriano and Puyol later in the game, as well as making a number of crucial interceptions as the visitors looked to open us up with quick passes.
'I try to do my best all the time, try to be in good positions and have the advantage when shots come in and you have to say the back four was absolutely fantastic making the blocks, and we had the strategy that one against one there would be someone to cover, so it was a fantastic performance,' he said.
'Sometimes that's the way it goes, sometimes you are lucky and sometimes you are unlucky. In football, things can change quickly, but 1-0 doesn't make a big difference. We have the advantage and they didn't score an away goal, but they are playing at home where they always score a lot of goals. We couldn't have asked for more, we did what we could tonight and it was a great result.'
Having lost only one game in 13 under the stewardship of Roberto Di Matteo, the Blues are thriving. Last night's win against Barcelona - the Catalan side's first defeat since February - came only three days after a 5-1 FA Cup semi-final win against Tottenham, and with another important assignment away at Arsenal in the league on Saturday, confidence, as Cech admits, is flowing through the team.
'We changed the manager and got a few good results; from that point, the confidence of the team was growing and you can see once you feel more confident the results come,' said Cech.
'The games are coming thick and fast and we don't really have time to think about each match. Almost every game is like a big final, on Saturday we play Arsenal in another massive game, before we go to Barcelona.
'Last time we kept a clean sheet at the Camp Nou but we went out because of the away goal they scored here. They didn't get an away goal tonight but it will be very important for us to score over there.'