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Wednesday March 19, 2014 MYT 7:32:01 AM
Wednesday March 19, 2014 MYT 7:33:11 AM
by mitch phillips
LONDON (Reuters) - Chelsea's miniature midfield marvels may scoop the plaudits but success is built on solid foundations and Jose Mourinho praised his central defensive rocks after his side's Champions League win over Galatasaray.
Eden Hazard, Oscar, Ramires and Willian were all on duty in Tuesday's 2-0 home victory that sent Chelsea into the quarter-finals 3-1 on aggregate but it was John Terry and Gary Cahill who Mourinho picked out for particular praise.
The duo ensured that striker Didier Drogba's return to his old club was a forgettable one and Cahill even weighed in with the second goal - following a parried Terry header - after Samuel Eto'o's fourth-minute opener.
"Gary and John had a fantastic performance against two very good strikers and the fact was that we controlled the game so well that you couldn't see Drogba in a dangerous position," Mourinho told a news conference.
"The team was very, very solid, very confident and in control for 90 minutes, which is difficult.
"It was a very good performance. There were no fears, we had a very good approach to the game as 1-1 is difficult, even when your winning 2-0 it's difficult because one goal for them leaves them needing just a goal to go through.
"But we got a positive result in the first leg and tonight we finished the job."
Terry and Cahill looked like men absolutely on top of their game and with the ever-reliable Branislav Ivanovic and Cesar Azpilicueta outside them, Mourinho can spend his time working on attacking ideas knowing his defence is sound.
In normal circumstances the England manager would be delighted at being able to slot a regular club pairing straight into the national team but though Cahill's consistent displays this season have made him a likely starter in the World Cup, Terry will be watching from home.
Roy Hodgson has made it abundantly clear he has no intention of trying to prize Terry out of international retirement, despite the alarming drop in form of most of his centre-back rivals.
Chelsea's England midfielder Frank Lampard still looks a man with one more tournament in him, however, after he too delivered a display full of experience and authority to continually snuff out Galatasaray's attacks before they reached anything like the danger zone.
That left Drogba a forlorn figure up front and Mourinho, who enjoyed some of his finest moments in tandem with the powerful Ivorian, had some sympathy.
The Portuguese coach laughed off suggestions that the 36-year-old forward had been overcome by the occasion and the emotion of the warm welcome he was afforded by the home fans.
"No, the most difficult thing was the way his team played," he said. "When you are a striker, if your team doesn't play attacking football you feel a lonely man. It happens to every striker in the world."
Galatasaray coach Roberto Mancini was at a loss to explain his team's failure to get even the slightest toe-hold in the match.
"It's very hard to say anything about the game because we didn't do anything," he said.
"After the first leg in Istanbul I was confident we would get a chance. We had a plan but we gave a goal away after four minutes.
"It was a difficult game but our players did not make an impact. I'm very disappointed for our supporters as they were the best player on the pitch."
Mancini accepted Chelsea "had a chance" of going all the way in Europe but he was not about to hand them all the glory this season.
Asked who he thought would win the English Premier League, the Italian, who led Manchester City to their dramatic domestic title success in 2012, backed his former club.
"I think Manchester City," he said. "Because they have the best players."
(Editing by Ken Ferris)
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