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11-01-2012, 02:15 PM #1
Di Matteo proud of Chelsea character
Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo has backed his decision to play John Obi Mikel in Wednesday's League Cup clash with Manchester United.
Earlier in the day, the Blues had lodged an official complaint against referee Mark Clattenburg over inappropriate language allegedly used by the official after the two sides' Premier League meeting on Sunday.
Chelsea did not pursue claims that Juan Mata was also involved, with the Spaniard also featuring in the topsy-turvy Stamford Bridge clash.
"I spoke to my players in the last couple of days and made sure they were in the right frame of mind to play, so I had no concerns in picking the team I wanted to," Di Matteo said.
"First of all we had both midfield players booked in the first half and secondly I wanted to change a little bit the team tactically.
"He's (Mikel) fully focused on playing football. I wouldn't have played him if I had any doubt."
Chelsea looked to be heading for defeat until Eden Hazard struck in stoppage time, netting a penalty and taking the game beyond 90 minutes.
Further efforts from Daniel Sturridge and Ramires effectively killed off the tie before Chelsea sealed a 5-4 result.
And the manager was delighted with the spirit shown by his charges.
"They showed a big, big heart, passion and pride to not want to lose this game," he said.
"It was a very exciting game of football to watch, a typical cup game, quite open at times, and a lot of mistakes from both teams because there were a lot of young players involved in the game.
"I'm very pleased with the players that I picked tonight. They performed on a big stage like tonight and they're going to play an important role in our season.
"We are trying to change a little bit the way we play and at times you're going to make mistakes.
"But young players will learn from it and get better from it, and as a team we will get better as well in not making mistakes. But that's the way we want to go forward."
Manchester United counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson, meanwhile, pointed the finger of blame at Nani for his side's defeat.
The visitors took the lead three times and were 3-2 up with minutes of normal time remaining when Nani lost the ball, which ultimately led to Chelsea winning a penalty which Hazard converted to take the tie to extra-time.
"Well we gave the ball away for the third goal when we had complete control of the match at that point, playing really good football," he said.
"All we needed to do was see the game out and keep possession. Nani decided to try and beat a man and lost the ball, and then it was a penalty kick. I don't know if it was a penalty kick or not. I think at that point our young players started to feel it and it was very difficult in extra time.
"Nani is experienced, he's an individual, he's a player who wants to beat men and we are not going to discourage that but in that situation if he had kept the ball in the corner flag, the game's over."
Despite his disappointment, the United manager did have time to praise his players, particularly Ryan Giggs who scored twice for the visitors.
"I think some of our football was terrific. I think in Ryan Giggs you have a player of unbelievable proportions in terms of playing 120 minutes at 39 years of age, next month. It's a credit to himself, it's an example to everyone on that pitch including the Chelsea players," he said.
"It's disappointing, we had to gamble in terms of the young centre backs. It's not easy, you can always go with playing young forwards in games of this magnitude but playing young central defenders away from home, it's going to be a difficult night for them and so it proved.
"We had control of the game, they had a lot of attacks, but nothing really came of them and our counterattack was very good.
"But if you're winning 3-2 at the end of the game you really should see it out. We only have ourselves to blame really."