Terry sets tone for Chelsea's resilience

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The Independent Football

For a footballer who has become so accustomed to leading his side, it will have felt strange for John Terry to find himself following his Chelsea team-mates through Gatwick airport yesterday at a distance of 20 paces. He had returned from Munich with only one leg in complete working order but for the heart and soul of Chelsea's defence to request a lift would have defied the principles that have defined his season.

For a footballer who has become so accustomed to leading his side, it will have felt strange for John Terry to find himself following his Chelsea team-mates through Gatwick airport yesterday at a distance of 20 paces. He had returned from Munich with only one leg in complete working order, but for the heart and soul of Chelsea's defence to request a lift would have defied the principles that have defined his season.

After the tricky customers from Barcelona had come the anvil of Bayern. Tuesday night in the Olympiastadion was the proof that Terry's Chelsea are as well-equipped to stand up to the strongmen of the Champions' League as they are at outpassing the flamboyant purveyors of football on the break. Chelsea have not just been given the most gruelling route to the final but they have had to defeat two clubs who interpret the challenge of European competition in very different ways.

As usual, it had been Terry, dealt a dead right leg on the night, who proved the very centre of Chelsea's resistance. In a game that could have combusted so many times, not least in the tunnel before the match, Terry managed what so few traditional English hardmen have achieved in European football before: aggression and dominance without loss of temper. And he had plenty of reasons to lose it.

As the two teams lined up in the tunnel, Oliver Kahn sought out Terry for retribution for the body-check he had dealt the veteran goalkeeper in the first leg last week. Both Kahn and Michael Ballack are understood to have struck out in quick succession at Terry before the Chelsea captain's team-mates massed around him to keep an uneasy peace. The tone for the night had been set.

If Kahn's aggression tells us one thing then it is confirmation that the approach adopted by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge ­ the clattering of Kahn by Terry, the long balls to Didier Drogba ­ had been part of another successful tactical ambush by Jose Mourinho. They created a sense of inferiority that festered within Bayern, which convinced the German side that the only way to beat Chelsea was to meet force with force.

Perhaps that was why Felix Magath chose a team that offered width through Bastian Schweinsteiger and Ze Roberto but little more subtlety than a succession of crosses in towards Claudio Pizarro and the disappointing Roy Makaay. That is not to devalue Chelsea's feat in shutting Bayern out until all but the latter stages ­ but it did play to the great strengths of Mourinho's team: the ability of Terry, Ricardo Carvalho and Petr Cech to deal with crosses.

A year since Chelsea's Champions' League run was killed off at the semi-final stage by Claudio Ranieri's unexplained wholesale tactical changes, when the first-leg in Monaco was squared at 1-1, Mourinho's Chelsea project feels confident and assured. Even without their manager in the stadium, Eidur Gudjohnsen said the aggregate victory over Bayern was a triumph that had Mourinho's mark on it.

"It was for everyone to see how we felt after the Monaco game last season and it's not something I want to go through again," he said. "I think we've learnt from that. That won't happen again. Last year we were very inexperienced in the Champions' League and made some basic, basic errors. Both the team and maybe the management as well.

"As a collective we've taken a big step forward and with the mentality, experience and confidence that the manager has brought we've gone a stage higher.

"We've brought in a lot of players in the last two years and it does take time. But this year we've taken a bigger step than last year. We've found a good foundation and a system that suits us. We're heading in one direction, not chopping and changing too much," Gudjohnsen added.

Chelsea now speculate how soon they can gain the three wins needed to seal the Premiership and concentrate on a Champions' League title that has started to look like a reality. They face Arsenal, Fulham and then a trip to Bolton for what could be a coronation.

Tuesday night showed the capacity this Chelsea side has to concentrate on its task. Before the match they saw their manager's impromptu exit on the stadium's big screen and fitness coach Rui Faria was called upon at half-time to demonstrate to Uefa officials he did not have a communications device under his hat. In the meantime, Terry and his team-mates did a remarkable job of subduing a Bayern side intent on revenge.

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