Gianfranco Zola singled out the impact made by our substitutes against Bournemouth, including the matchwinner Eden Hazard, as proving pivotal in our success tonight, and he also reacted to a mouthwatering Carabao Cup semi-final draw.
After edging past Bournemouth we will play Tottenham in the last four, with the first leg taking place away from home. When queried about the pairing, our assistant first team coach noted it was a good opportunity to exact some revenge on our London rivals after what happened at Wembley last month…
‘It could have been better but we are in the semi-finals,’ was Zola's immediate reaction to the draw.
‘We are happy because some time ago they gave us a good football lesson, and we are looking forward to challenging them again. I’m sure it’s going to be a different type of game, and I think everybody is very excited to face them again.
‘We were hurting [after the league defeat]. Too many players underplayed in that game. There are a lot of proud players in our team, and of course they will want to play this game. I am really pleased we are playing against them and I can’t wait.’
Zola was asked if it will be a good opportunity for Chelsea supporters to back the team in the correct manner, as Blues chairman Bruce Buck called on our fans to do in an open letter yesterday
‘I have no doubts they will respond to it in a proper way. We have fantastic supporters and I’m sure they will be supporting respectfully, and with the Chelsea way.’
Focusing on tonight’s hard-fought 1-0 win, Zola had praise for the beaten Cherries
‘It was a very tough game. Bournemouth are a very good team. The coaches they have do an excellent job. They gave us a really hard time.
‘We started very well in the first 20, 25 minutes, but they didn’t concede much. They closed down all the spaces well, and in the end they got stronger and stronger.
‘I thought the difference was the changes we made. When Pedro and Eden came on it really gave us an extra gear. We got the goal that made the difference.’
Zola considered whether at this busy time of year he would rather Hazard remained unused
‘We have a lot of games. Players like Eden we need to keep fit and in good condition. But we also know Eden is the type of player when he comes on, even for 20 minutes, he can make a big difference. Also Pedrito. He was excellent.’
Hazard’s stock continues to rise after his 10th goal of the season and 99th in a Chelsea shirt
‘He is certainly one of the players who has given this club a lot of satisfaction. Considering he is only 27, hopefully he will stay longer with us and become even bigger.
‘I am really looking forward to seeing Eden achieving great things with the club, and to help us coaches achieve something important.’
Ruben Loftus-Cheek was a danger on the right wing and hit the post in the second half
‘I was impressed with him. He has done very well as one of the wide players, but he showed a lot of application and sacrifice when he played as a midfielder. He was getting tired towards the end but he was still disciplined and gave the team a hand.
‘He has come far since the beginning of the season. He has improved in many ways, and I’m pleased because he is a good boy and he works very hard on his game.’