Terry lauds Blues goal hero for rising to the big occasion again

Chelsea captain John Terry paid tribute to goalscorer Didier Drogba after the Stamford Bridge side defied Barcelona to claim a memorable 1-0 win in last night’s Champions League semi-final first leg.

Drogba netted on the stroke of half-time to give Roberto Di Matteo’s side a vital lead ahead of next week’s second leg. And Terry said: “We had to be very patient, I don’t think we touched the ball for the first 15 minutes but from Didi on his own up front, the midfield and defence, it was a great team performance.” Drogba opened the scoring shortly before the interval in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham and did so again last night, rounding off a break involving Frank Lampard and Ramires. “Didi is all about these big nights, the big occasions,” continued Terry. “He put fear into the Spurs defence at the weekend and he did that again tonight. He was up there on his own against some of the best defenders in world and he did it brilliantly.”

The result helped avenge Chelsea’s controversial defeat to the same opposition at this stage of the competition in 2009, after which Drogba collected a four-match ban – reduced to three on appeal – for his foul-mouthed reaction in front of a television camera.

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The Ivorian said last night: “I think we’ve learnt. We’ve improved from three years ago, we didn’t concede a goal. We are happy because the result is a good one, now we’ll go there to try to score another and qualify.”

Di Matteo refused to get carried away by a result which boosts not only his team’s hopes of reaching the final, but perhaps his own prospects of landing the job on a permanent basis. Asked what he had proved, he insisted: “Absolutely nothing. This group of players have shown the determination and courage to play against a top team. I think it’s still 50-50.”

Di Matteo added: “We knew we would have to do a lot of defending, they’re going to have a lot of possession, you have to try to limit their threat and take your chances. Didier scored a crucial goal but it was a collective performance by the whole team and we managed to score the goal.”

Terry added: “We respect them but we’re not in awe of them, and another performance like that and we’ll be okay.”