Drog's day

Chelsea hitman was a perennial threat to Barca, says Gary

Last Updated: 19/04/12 1:59pm

Gary Neville told Sky Sports News HD that Didier Drogba had one of his "greatest nights" during Chelsea's Champions League win over Barcelona at Stamford Bridge.

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"Chelsea were so compact and disciplined, but they needed that outlet and Drogba was a constant menace."

Gary Neville

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The Ivorian's goal gave the Blues a narrow advantage heading into next week's semi-final second leg at the Camp Nou, with the brawny frontman giving Barca centre-backs Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano a hard evening's work.

Sky Sports pundit Neville reckons that Drogba put in an excellent centre-forward's display, and says the 34-year-old's theatrics also helped Chelsea combat their opponents' much-heralded passing style.

Neville, speaking at a Living for Sport Masterclass, said: "It was a wet, cold and rainy English night at Stamford Bridge. It was a Didier Drogba night.

"Chelsea were so compact and disciplined, but they needed that outlet and he [Drogba] was a constant menace for Barcelona. They found it difficult to handle him physically and he got the goal.

"He is often unplayable for even the strongest centre-backs and you've seen him throw people to the deck many times over the years. He leads the line on his own better than most in Europe; he can hold the ball up and wait for support and last night was one of his greatest."

On the time Drogba spent on the floor, Neville added: "Last night Chelsea had to play a tactical battle; they had to slow the game down, they had to buy themselves some time and give their defenders some respite and [he allowed them to do that]."

Determination

Neville, who also praised the defensive application shown by Blues' centre-halves John Terry and Gary Cahill, believes Barcelona are still the more likely of the two sides to book a place in May's Champions League Final.

But Neville reckons Roberto Di Matteo's men can progress to next month's European club showpiece at the Allianz Arena if they maintain their composure in the cauldron of the Camp Nou.

"I would still say Barcelona are slight favourites, possibly 60-40, because their record at the Camp Nou is incredible, but it's certainly set up for a wonderful night," said the former Manchester United right-back.

"It will be more difficult next week (for Chelsea), but if they can keep that level of determination and compactness in the defending - and get a little bit of luck - they've put themselves in with a great chance.

"If Chelsea get a goal in the Camp Nou, Barcelona have to score three. They are capable of scoring 23, but if you look at the Manchester United quarter-final in 2007/08, Barcelona dominated possession for 180 minutes and Untied won 1-0.

"Chelsea have got that same level of experience and their quality in the Champions League is really high; they've got to many, many semi-finals and those players will not be phased by the Camp Nou.

"They know they will have to put up with the atmosphere and the occasion but they can cope with that. Chelsea's chances are a lot higher than they were before the match [at Stamford Bridge]."