The official website for European football

Kotrba backs Chelsea bid

Published: Wednesday 26 November 2003, 22.42CET
Jirí Kotrba masterminded AC Sparta Praha's draw in London, then tipped Chelsea FC as potential champions.
Published: Wednesday 26 November 2003, 22.42CET

Kotrba backs Chelsea bid

Jirí Kotrba masterminded AC Sparta Praha's draw in London, then tipped Chelsea FC as potential champions.

By Trevor Haylett in London

Chelsea FC are through to the UEFA Champions League knockout stage despite being held by AC Sparta Praha, and the visiting coach who masterminded the draw still believes Claudio Ranieri's side are strong contenders to lift the trophy on 26 May 2004.

Precious point
Jirí Kotrba's team showed a defensive tenaciousness in keeping their own hopes of progress alive with a precious point. If they defeat S.S. Lazio in Prague on 9 December, and Chelsea do them a favour and beat Besiktas JK, a place in the last 16 will be Sparta's. Chelsea will go through as group winners as long as they avoid defeat against their Turkish opponents.

Prime contenders
It was a frustrating night for the home supporters, though, but Kotrba remains a fan of the side revamped at great cost in the summer. "Chelsea have a very good team, a quality team and there were some very good players like [Marcel] Desailly and [Juan Sebastián] Verón who did not play tonight," the Sparta coach said. "I might not say they will win the trophy but they are definitely one of the contenders for the winning post."

Defensive display
Kotrba was happy with his team's defensive display as they strung two banks of defenders in front of goalkeeper Jaromír Blazek and challenged Chelsea to break them down. Clear-cut opportunities were thin on the ground as Chelsea looked in vain for the creativity that had taken them to a stunning 4-0 victory at Lazio on Matchday 4.

Gallas close
Late on two golden opportunities did emerge for Chelsea. With eight minutes remaining William Gallas, who scored the only goal when the clubs met on Matchday 1, headed the ball against the post. Even later Adrian Mutu shot uncharacteristically off target when Damien Duff sent him clear.

Ranieri pleased
"I am pleased because we created four or five chances to score a goal," Ranieri said. "We tried to win and claim the three points but it is OK. Now it is important to get a point against Besiktas and win the group." His players did find the net in the 27th minute but after seeing his initial header rebound off the bar Hernán Crespo was ruled offside with his second effort after Mutu had worked hard to win the loose ball.

Cole happy
"We are through so we are happy but Sparta made it hard for us and they have some excellent players," said Joe Cole, who showed nimble skills out on the left on his first Champions League start as Verón's deputy. "If we had scored an early goal it would have been different but now we will just go and try to get a result against Besiktas."

Mixed news
Sparta were content to sit back knowing that a draw would be a good result and leave everything hanging on the final round of matches in two weeks' time as long as tonight's game in Rome did not end in a Besiktas victory. "The good news from the game is that we have a draw and that we know we have a good defence," Kotrba added. "The not-so-good news is that we did not score and the game was not as close as we wanted it to be."

Last updated: 27/11/03 14.59CET

Related information

Team profiles
Related match
  • SSI Err

http://www.uefa.com/news/newsid=129430.html#kotrba+backs+chelsea

UEFA.com features

Pick of the week: matchday one
  • Pick of the week: matchday one
  • What teams need to get through
  • Watch the five best acrobatic Champions League goals
  • Ones to watch in the group stage
  • Masterclass: Xavi on passing and control
  • Newcomers ready for Champions League debuts
  • Pick of the Week of Football
  • Berezovski and Frick join Europe's 40-somethings
  • Europe's all-time top international goalscorers
  • Introducing football in Gibraltar ...
1 of 10
  • © 1998-2014 UEFA. All rights reserved.
  • The UEFA word, the UEFA logo and all marks related to UEFA competitions, are protected by trade marks and/or copyright of UEFA. No use for commercial purposes may be made of such trade marks. Use of UEFA.com signifies your agreement to the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.