By Trevor Haylett in London
Chelsea FC manager Claudio Ranieri felt that his team's feat in gaining a place in the UEFA Champions quarter-finals counted for more than the quality of their performance against VfB Stuttgart. "It's a huge achievement for us," he said.
'Building a team'
"When you are building a team, sometimes you play well and sometimes you don't," continued Ranieri after the
0-0 draw which put Chelsea through 1-0 on aggregate. "Sometimes you play well, and you don't win. Tonight we did not play well, but we're in the quarter-finals and that is important."
Ranieri said that his team were nervous and that they conceded too much ground to the visitors. Once again they came to rely on the discipline and durability of their defence. In five successive games in the competition no opponent has managed to breach the London side. "We played better in Stuttgart than we did tonight," Ranieri added. "I do not know why that should be. Maybe we looked at the achievement ahead of us and became too nervous."
The Italian revealed that the plan was to attack with two wide men, Jesper Grønkjær and Damien Duff, either side of Hernán Crespo and limit the scope for Stuttgart to threaten down the flanks. "We allowed them too much space infield and too much possession but around the penalty area we closed down well.
They only really had long shots against us," he said.
That was true, but Stuttgart still went home lamenting their inability to accept just one invitation to keep the tie alive. Possibly their best opportunity arrived in the 77th minute when a corner kick found Boris Zivkovic unmarked to the right of goal. His header went straight to Carlo Cudicini, a pattern which held true all night long.
Stuttgart coach Felix Magath saluted his team's endeavour, but said tellingly: "We have talented attackers, but that amount of ability must be able to convert chances into goals. We gave a good account of ourselves and matched Chelsea blow for blow.
"It's obviously disappointing to have gone out, particularly because we lost though an own goal in the first game. Over 180 minutes we have not been the worst team. Maybe we were not the best team either but I think the tie was balanced perfectly between the two sides.
It is fair to say Chelsea enjoyed a little bit of luck in going through."
Ranieri, who will know more in the morning about the extent of Glen Johnson's ankle injury, said Chelsea's aim was to go as far as they could in the competition - as well as keeping up their English Premiership challenge. "It is not easy but we want to continue in the league and also in the Champions League," the manager said.
Frank Lampard insists that Chelsea can go all the way "if we play to our potential". The midfield player concluded: "We did not play to our best today but a clean sheet was all we needed and now we move on to the next round." The Londoners will learn their next opponents on Friday.
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