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Magath sees bright side of loss

Published: Wednesday 25 February 2004, 23.10CET
Felix Magath gave the unfortunate Fernando Meira his support after VfB Stuttgart's defeat by Chelsea FC.
Published: Wednesday 25 February 2004, 23.10CET

Magath sees bright side of loss

Felix Magath gave the unfortunate Fernando Meira his support after VfB Stuttgart's defeat by Chelsea FC.

By Mark Bennett in Stuttgart

In spite of Fernando Meira's own goal which gave visitors Chelsea FC a first-leg lead in this UEFA Champions League first knockout round tie, Felix Magath refused to blame the defender for his team's defeat. "It was just one of those things," said the VfB Stuttgart coach.

Upbeat mood
Meira turned Glen Johnson's 12th-minute cross into his own net, and despite a tremendous Stuttgart effort they could not force their way past Chelsea for an equaliser. Magath, though, remained upbeat. "I still think that Fernando did exactly the right thing," he said. "It was a good move down the right followed by a good cross and if Fernando had not tried to get the ball Hernán Crespo would have surely scored."

Fine start
Overall, the coach professed himself satisfied with his side's performance, particularly in the first half-hour. "We desperately wanted to win the match and take a lead into the return leg and we started the game well," Magath said. "We put Chelsea under a lot of pressure and created some dangerous openings in the penalty area."

Uphill struggle
However, there was a caveat. "Sadly we lost our way slightly midway through the first half and we let Chelsea off the hook," Magath said. Despite facing an uphill struggle to get back into the tie, Magath is sure his side have a chance at Stamford Bridge on 9 March.

'Not giving up'
"We knew that Chelsea would be hard to beat away from home and so far this season no team in the Champions League has done it," he said. "But at times they do have a few problems at home. We hope to capitalise on that when we travel to London and we are definitely not giving up."

Ranieri pleased
Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri, meanwhile, was a relieved man. "It was a very good win indeed," Ranieri said. "We knew it would be tough here because they have not lost at home in the Champions League this season. In the end we are very happy with the result."

'Not calm enough'
Ranieri, however, was not pleased with his side's showing in the opening spell. "We were prepared for Stuttgart's early pressure," the Italian said. "Sadly even after taking the lead we were not calm enough and lost possession too quickly. That changed after 30 minutes and we managed to take control slightly."

Turning point?
None the less, the Chelsea manager thinks that the triumph in Germany could prove to be a turning point in his side's suddenly faltering season after two costly losses to Arsenal FC in the last fortnight. The manager said: "So far the players have been physically up to it. After the two defeats against Arsenal I felt that we were suffering mentally. Hopefully that will change now because we proved that we can win big matches."

Praise for pair
Winger Damien Duff and goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini both made welcome returns from injury, Ranieri saying: "They are both very important players and I need them. Carlo could not kick the ball but played very well indeed. Damien has been out a long time, but he will be able to help us again now."

Amstel Man of the Match: Carlo Cudicini
Chelsea goalkeeper Cudicini has been selected as the Amstel Man of the Match voted by users. Despite having been out through injury, Cudicini was the key to Chelsea's clean sheet and gained 28 per cent of the vote.

Last updated: 03/04/04 16.52CET

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