'Barcelona are in the next round and they deserve to be there'

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The Independent Online

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was still adamant that Barcelona had never beaten his side on a level playing field but he did eventually leave the Nou Camp last night by begrudgingly admitting that the Catalan giants deserved to go through.

The Chelsea manager said: "We were playing with 10 players for most of the first leg [after Asier Del Horno's red card] so we haven't seen it two games where we have 11 against 11. We haven't seen Barça win against 11 players, but Barça are a great team and we wish them the best of luck.

"We are completely different teams. They have great qualities in one aspect, we have great qualities in other aspects. The reality is that Barcelona are in the next round and they deserve to be there. They think about the quarter-final and we'll think about the Premiership and the FA Cup.

"We had to score a goal and I said to the players: 'If we score a goal, even in the 85th, 86th or 87th minute, we'd have big chances.' But we scored a goal in the 92nd minute and it is very difficult.

"Barcelona were different to normally what they are. They defended much more and were waiting for counter-attacks. I'm not saying that we had 20 chances to score, but in the first half we had a good situation for Joe Cole and another for Arjen Robben. In the second half [Hernan] Crespo had a chance. If we had scored one of these then the game would have been open and the pressure would have been on them. But we didn't score until the last minute of the game.

"The crucial result was at Stamford Bridge and the statistics show that when you lose 2-1 at home in the Champions' League it is very difficult to turn the tie around."

Mourinho's counterpart, Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard, said he did not view the victory as revenge for last year's defeat.

"I'm not a guy who believes in revenge," said Rijkaard. "It was very important to go through in a wonderful tournament. For me it doesn't matter who we beat, we have to go on. Revenge doesn't come into it.

"I have nothing specifically against Chelsea or their coach. I have great respect for what he is doing and I think he does a great job."

Last year Barça lost 5-4 on aggregate to Chelsea at the same stage after two high-tension games marked by acrimony and controversy. This time Barca eased their way into the quarter-finals after a 1-1 draw at the Nou Camp gave them a 3-2 aggregate victory.

"I think the team worked very well and worked very seriously," said Rijkaard. "We gave our rivals very few chances. The Ronaldinho goal was spectacular, not just because of the way he created it but also for the speed he showed.

"They defended very well and were very tough, but he manufactured the chance and did something very special, but then he's a special player."

Rijkaard said that victory over Chelsea was just the start of the hard work for his side.

"I'm very happy we've gone through against a great side. But we have to keep on working. It was very hard to eliminate Chelsea but we have to prepare ourselves for the next game because the level in the Champions' League is so high. Of course I am happy, not just for myself but for this group of players. It is always easy when we have players which are great, which we do. I am very happy with the way Ronaldinho played, not only because of the goal, but because he kept creating opportunities."

Barcelona striker Henrik Larsson disagreed with Mourinho's opinion that the best team had not necessarily gone through to the last eight of the competition. Larsson said: "The best team won over two legs. We knew they had to come and attack and tried to make sure they could not get behind us. It was a very important result after last year and we are very happy."

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