Di Matteo leaps to the defence of Drogba

 

Roberto Di Matteo yesterday defended Didier Drogba against charges of diving. The Ivorian scored the only goal of Chelsea's 1-0 win over Barcelona on Wednesday but did not impress everyone with his reactions to fouls.

Di Matteo said Drogba was being genuine. "Everybody is entitled to their opinion," said the Chelsea caretaker manager. "He was marked most of the time by two men and got a physical battering. We have to be objective about our opinions as well."

Simulation is a live issue: yesterday Sir Alex Ferguson said he had "had a word" with Ashley Young after the winger won penalties for Manchester United in consecutive home matches. Asked if he would have a similar talk with his players, Di Matteo said he would not.

"I don't see any reason for a conversation like that," Di Matteo said. "Our players are fair players. Everybody has their own style but we are a fair team."

Barcelona's Carles Puyol was visibly infuriated by the time Drogba spent on the turf on Wednesday, but Di Matteo fiercely denied that it was part of a concerted attempt to run down the clock as Chelsea tried to hold on to their lead.

"Do you know how many times other teams waste time?" Di Matteo said. "Many times. Every team does it. Let me tell you, Barcelona do it as well."

Wednesday night, like last Sunday's FA Cup semi-final, provided an imposing reminder of just how effective Drogba can be. He scored the brilliant opener in Chelsea's 5-1 defeat of Tottenham at Wembley and was a ferocious presence against Barcelona, scoring the only goal in first-half added time.

For all the speculation over Drogba's future, Di Matteo said the 34-year-old was good enough to play for Chelsea for another two years.

"He's fit, so I'm sure he will continue to play football," Di Matteo said. "He's not going to retire, whether here or elsewhere I don't know. Yes, whether at Chelsea or someone else, even for another couple of years. If there are no injuries and you train well and live well, I have seen players go on to late 30s."

Criticism of Chelsea's famous win over Barcelona was not limited to accusations of gamesmanship. Arrigo Sacchi, the former AC Milan coach, wrote in the Gazzetta dello Sport that Chelsea's defensive tactics were inappropriate, given their resources. The article's headline was: "Di Matteo won, football did not."

But Di Matteo was understandably proud with the result and said he was only responsible for the club's progress, rather than aesthetic concerns. "I know Arrigo very well and his philosophy," he said. "He's probably closer to Barcelona style but we have to look at ourselves and what is the best way to win and go for it. It is about winning. Every game throws different challenges and we have to be ready for those. I think personally I'm happy we won. Everybody connected to the club is happy we won. That's what matters most."

Drogba will be missing this afternoon at Arsenal, as Chelsea return their attention to the battle to finish fourth. Di Matteo promised "a few changes", in reaction to a busy schedule.

"Recovery is probably the most important aspect right now," he said. "Results help you to keep going and believe you can achieve the targets you have set yourself."

News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'