• Premier League

Chelsea laugh at 'jealous' critics

ESPN staff
April 29, 2014
Chelsea win when it counts

Chelsea's players have rounded on Brendan Rodgers and other critics of their defensive displays.

Jose Mourinho's side pulled off an important 2-0 win at Anfield on Sunday to spice up the title race as the Premier League season reaches its climax.

But Chelsea were attacked by pundits and Liverpool manager Rodgers, who derided the tactic of "parking two buses" as his team's prospects of ending a 24-year wait to be crowned champions dimmed.

Chelsea goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer responded by claiming the criticism was "amusing" after the league leaders played into their hands and team-mate Andre Schurrle said: "If people look at us and say 'Chelsea can't play' even when we win, it's just because they're jealous.

Andre Schurrle insists Chelsea are not just a defensive team © Getty Images

"Winning is what matters. It's the most important thing. You can play perfect football, lots of one-touch stuff, and you lose. But that's not what you want, you want to win. There's no point in playing well and losing. If our plan is to win playing this way, and we win, then it is perfect.

"We felt it was brilliant, a perfect game. We did exactly what we needed to do and what we were told to do. We needed to show we could be in a fight, a battle, and win it. If that means we have to be willing to do something that takes a yellow card, then we have to be ready to do that for each other and I'm happy to do that."

Chelsea were also criticised for time-wasting and alleged to have employed gamesmanship against Liverpool but Schurrle, who has been given new playing responsibilities, says the players trust in Mourinho's win-at-all-costs approach.

"I've learned so much from the manager and I love being in his team and learning new roles," he said. "When I was in Germany I never played like this, so defensive - almost a left-back. But that is good for me, because it was something I missed, the defensive work.

"Mourinho said we needed to be perfect defensively and that is what I tried. You've got to have both elements in your game."

Schwarzer also defended Chelsea's tactics, claiming their manager had pulled off a masterstroke by pinpointing Liverpool's strengths and exploiting their weaknesses.

Italian takes charge

  • Italian World Cup referee Nicola Rizzoli, an architect by trade, will take charge of Chelsea's Champions League semi-final second leg against Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
  • The official has a generally good reputation but in 2010, he sent off Manchester United's Rafael at Old Trafford when they were leading 4-3 on aggregate, a decision which contributed to United's exit.
  • He was also involved in an extraordinary moment last month in Serie A when he awarded a penalty to Sassuolo but then changed his mind following five minutes of protests from Roma after consulting his assistants.

"We didn't want to go there and sit back, and just try to get a result or park two buses in front of the goal like it was suggested," the Australian goalkeeper said.

"We wanted to be strong defensively, but we also wanted to attack them and score goals on the counter and that worked perfectly for us. It was a great victory. We played right down to the game plan; it just worked very, very well. We tried to slow the game down, that was pretty obvious from the start and that worked in our favour.

"It frustrated Liverpool, it frustrated their fans and the pressure started to mount for them. They had everything in their own hands and they needed to win to keep it that way and keep the momentum.

"The longer it went on without conceding and the more pressure we applied by taking our time with things, the more frustrated they became and that became obvious.

"It's quite amusing to hear the criticism because the bottom line is there was a tactic we employed and it worked down to a tee. We played within the rules and we played the best way we thought we could get a result, tried to frustrate Liverpool and it worked."

The victory at Liverpool was not the first time Chelsea have succeeded with a defence-first tactic this season, with a goalless draw in the first leg of their Champions League against Atletico Madrid last week hailed by many as an impressive tactical display.

As they prepare for the second leg on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge, Schurrle insists Chelsea have more in their locker than just playing on the counter-attack - something they may have to prove against another defence-minded side, Atletico.

"We can make both types of game," Schurrle said. "We showed against Arsenal that, when we need to, we can make the game and score goals. We know we can do that and we hope to give Atletico problems if they come and just try to defend."

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