Ranieri unsure about plans for future as fantasy journey ends

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The Independent Football

Claudio Ranieri looked a broken man at the end and in the post-match press conference he refused to be drawn on his future ­ and how he thought he himself had handled matters over the two legs of the semi-final.

"It is not important what I think about myself," he said before identifying the injury-time goal by Monaco at the end of the first half as the turning point. "I think the first half was an amazing match," he said. "We played very, very well. We put them under pressure. We dominated the match but of course we knew that on the counter-attack they were, they are, very, very dangerous.

"We had a lot of chances. I think when we conceded a goal at the end of it that changed the match. If it had finished 2-0 for us then the second half would have been another match because they would have to attack and we could counter-attack. But we had to continue attacking instead."

He refused to blame the referee, Anders Frisk, despite complaints from his players that Monaco's first goal had been scored with an arm. "The referee did not see it," Ranieri said. "What can you do? We drew and we go out before the final against a very good team."

Ranieri said the attacking verve shown by Monaco vindicated his fateful decision to try to win the first leg. "I knew very well they play better away from home," he said. Ranieri was defiant over his team's performance in this competition. "I think a lot of clubs have spent a lot of money and they did not arrive where Chelsea arrive," he said. "I think that Roman [Abramovich's] money was spent very well."

The Chelsea owner ­ as is his custom ­ went to the dressing room after the match to talk to the players. "He said that next time it will be better," said Ranieri. It is unlikely that he himself will be there next season, of course.

Ranieri rated Monaco's chances as "50-50" in the final. Their opponents Porto, he said, "is a good team, play good football" and ­ perhaps mindful that their coach Jose Mourinho was in the stands and is being touted as his successor ­ he added "they have a good manager".

Ranieri's mood was in stark, and understandable, contrast to the broad smile of the Monaco coach, Didier Deschamps, who said: "I feel absolutely superb. We are in the final and I'm very proud of my team. We put in a quality performance. We did not start the game too well. Chelsea enjoyed quite a few opportunities. Perhaps going 2-0 down freed up our players mentally. They were nervous and at 2-0 down they had to go for it. We got the goal just before half-time and that changed the game completely."

He said that Chelsea had "expended a huge amount of energy" in the first 45 minutes. Deschamps said he felt that Porto would start out as favourites for the final due to the greater experience of their players while his were still on a "journey of discovery". For Ranieri, at Chelsea, that journey is over.