• Champions League

Villas-Boas defends Kalou substitution

ESPNsoccernet staff
September 29, 2011

Andre Villas-Boas refused to accept he made a mistake in bringing on Salomon Kalou for the final seven minutes of Chelsea's Champions League 1-1 draw at Valencia.

Kalou replaced Frank Lampard with Chelsea defending a narrow lead after the midfielder had marked his return to the side with the opening goal at the Mestalla. But in the 87th minute Kalou inexplicably handled a cross into the Chelsea box which allowed Roberto Soldado the chance to grab a point from the penalty spot.

That led to accusations that Villas-Boas should have brought on a defensive player instead of a forward at such a key point in the game, but the manager rejected that claim.

"No, no, no, no,'' he said. "Putting on a striker is nothing to do with being more offensive or putting on a defender sometimes is nothing to do with being more defensive.

"I think it was the right choice bearing in mind what we were looking at, which was the fact that Valencia were coming out on the left side and doing a lot of two-against-ones against Bosingwa. I'm not going to criticise him [Kalou]. These things sometimes happen in football.

"We controlled the left side. The goal doesn't come from that situation. If you bring on a defender, you suffer the goal the same. So it's nothing to do with that in my opinion. It was a pity. We had very, very good opportunities to reach 2-0 and we just couldn't find the back of the net. It was very, very unlucky. The performance was solid and a draw away from home, if it's proposed to you before you take it.

"So near to a win, it leaves you with a strange feeling but we're in a good position still in the group. We're looking forward to the Genk game - they're going to be difficult games, of course. But if we get six points out of them, we're almost ensured qualification.''

On Lampard's return to the side, Villas-Boas said: "It was a good performance, a good display from a top player, one of the best players in the squad. A goal always comes at a good time for Frank. He's been a goalscorer all his life. His abilities are never in doubt and we trust him 100 per cent - like I told you.''

Chelsea's frustration boiled over at the final whistle, which witnessed a flurry of yellow cards after the referee blew for full-time after awarding Chelsea a free-kick. Villas-Boas said: "We wanted to organise ourselves and that could've been a chance for us. But the referee decided to end the game and we reacted a bit to suffering the penalty so late.''

Valencia boss Unai Emery was delighted with his players' never-say-die attitude. "I'm really happy with my players' performance, especially with their attitude on the pitch,'' Emery said. "They've been fighting for every single ball on the pitch tonight against a great team like Chelsea and I believe that it was a fair result in the end. We got a point, we had some chance to maybe score more goals but, in the end, a point is good enough for us.''

Emery's decision to drop goalkeeper Vincente Guaita and hand Diego Alves his first start of the season proved a masterstroke, with the Brazilian making a succession of stunning saves.

"The good news for Valencia is that we have two fantastic goalkeepers,'' Emery said. "After tonight's performance, I'm going to wait a bit until I make my mind up whether I'm going to carry on playing Alves in the Champions League.''

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