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Florent Malouda said Chelsea FC had shown FC Internazionale Milano "too much respect" after a 1-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge put the seal on their UEFA Champions League elimination, 3-1 on aggregate.
It was a night of woe for the 2008 finalists – not only were they second-best to former manager José Mourinho and his team, but they lost their long unbeaten home record in the competition and had Didier Drogba sent off in the closing stages.
It was already looking ominous for Chelsea with Internazionale offering no sign of relinquishing their 2-1 first-leg advantage when, in the 78th minute, the visitors finally made one of their second-half openings count. Samuel Eto'o finished off Wesley Sneijder's fine pass with an equally expert finish.
Malouda said that Chelsea's best qualifying chance had gone with their reverse at San Siro on 24 February. "It was a difficult night for us and we are all disappointed," the winger said. "We had to be stronger than that to go through but we have to give credit to Inter and wish them luck. They are a good team and Italian champions so they deserve our respect – but I think we gave them too much.
"We failed tonight so we have to analyse it with a cool head and think about that for the future," the French international added. It was just the second time Chelsea had failed to progress beyond the first knockout round in the last seven seasons, yet Malouda was sure the Blues would bounce back. "We have played semi-finals and finals over the past year and I still believe we can achieve things with this team. We have to concentrate now on the competitions we are left in."
Drogba acknowledged the part played by Mourinho's tactics in a defeat which was Chelsea's first at home in 22 UEFA Champions League games. "Inter played very well and they had a few chances in the second half so I think they deserved their victory," he said. "They stopped us playing the way we wanted. They made the game difficult for us. We had a lot of hopes in this competition and to be knocked out like this is very disappointing."
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