It is one of football's great truisms that a team are at their most vulnerable just after scoring, and for Petr Čech it provided the biggest cause for regret as he mulled over the goal that killed Chelsea FC's UEFA Champions League hopes for another season.
That goal came less than 60 seconds after Didier Drogba had rekindled the embers of Chelsea's ambitions at Manchester United FC, the substitute equalising at 1-1 in the 77th minute to leave Carlo Ancelotti's visitors needing just one more strike to win their quarter-final tie. Instead, less than 60 seconds later, their hopes were dashed as Park Ji-Sung hit United's second of the night to secure a 3-1 aggregate victory and ensure Chelsea's quest for a first European crown remains unfulfilled.
"We did well; it was a pretty equal game and down to ten men [after Ramires's 70th-minute sending-off] we managed to get our goal," Čech said. "I believed that they would be under a lot of pressure, but we were thinking too much about scoring the second goal and we conceded straight away after we scored, which was the decisive moment of the game."
The Czech goalkeeper was not alone in that view – United defender Nemanja Vidić admitted his team would have faced a "hard finish" without Park's intervention – but he was alone in being the sole member of Chelsea's disconsolate playing staff to stop and speak to journalists in the mixed zone after the match. Chelsea won the domestic double last season but will almost certainly finish this campaign without a trophy given the 11 points separating them in third from United at the Premier League summit.
In the face of this disappointment, Čech stressed it was important for Ancelotti's men to lift themselves and push on. "This is the year to learn from and to pick ourselves up and finish the season strongly, because there is still plenty to play for," the 28-year-old said, citing the need to secure UEFA Champions League football for 2011/12. "We want to finish as high as possible in the league. We have to pick ourselves up and get ready for next season. If we win most of the [remaining] games, we can finish second."
The former Stade Rennais FC custodian also dismissed the notion that Chelsea were a team lacking the necessary unity. They certainly took the game to United in the first period and finished the contest with 17 goal attempts to the home side's ten – albeit with only five on target to United's six. "You could see the team is together," he said. "If you are not together and you go down to ten men losing 1-0, the team falls apart, but we didn't do that."
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.