Gary Cahill relished the satisfaction of a 1-0 victory against FC Barcelona that leaves Chelsea FC well-placed to go through to the UEFA Champions League final, but said the wealth of possession their opponents enjoyed rendered their semi-final first-leg success mentally exhausting.
"What I will take from this game more than anything is that the concentration levels have to be so up there," Cahill told UEFA.com. "If you switch off for one second they have so many players who can change the game.
It's mentally exhausting more than anything else but the defence as a whole were concentrating tonight. You can see how well-drilled we were and it enabled us to achieve a good result."
Making only his second start in Europe's premier club competition Cahill was prominent with a number of timely blocks and interceptions as Barcelona brought all their intricate teamwork and dazzling skill into play to try and wipe out the advantage that Didier Drogba's goal at the end of the first half brought his team. They had chances and struck the woodwork on two occasions but it is the west London outfit who are a goal to the good going into Tuesday's second leg.
It was an important step for the central defender who has found it hard to earn a regular place in the side since making his move from Bolton Wanderers FC in January. Now Cahill is looking forward to making his first appearance at Camp Nou in the return.
"The other players have said what a big pitch it is," said the 26-year-old. "We know it is going to be tough but we will go there with confidence. Things have been going well for us of late and for me it's nice to start the game and to play well."
Frank Lampard admitted that fortune favoured his team with Alexis Sánchez striking the bar early on, while Pedro Rodríguez fired his shot against an upright in the dying seconds. "We had some luck but sometimes in football you deserve to have luck on your side," the England midfielder explained.
"We worked hard for it tonight.
To keep a clean sheet and to score is a big result for us but nothing is done yet. Every team that goes to play in Barcelona finds it difficult and it will take a lot of work to keep the result in our favour."
Lampard also paid tribute to manager Roberto Di Matteo who has masterminded a big improvement in results since taking over from André Villas-Boas in February. "He's brought an enthusiasm to the place and does the simple things in the dressing room," said the 33-year-old. "He set us up to be strong tonight which you need against Barcelona and he deserves a lot of credit."
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