Di Matteo eyes season of struggle

Di Matteo eyes season of struggle

Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo insists their failure to qualify for the Champions League via the top four cannot be blamed on last night’s 4-1 defeat at Liverpool.

The Stamford Bridge side began the match with an outside chance of catching fourth-placed Tottenham, although they required two victories and other results to go their way.

But the loss consigned them to sixth place as they cannot now even catch Newcastle.

Di Matteo fielded a weakened team showing eight changes from the one which beat Liverpool in Saturday’s FA Cup final but was still confident of getting a result.

Now he must beat Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena in the Champions League final a week on Saturday in order to qualify for Europe’s elite club competition.

“We have played 37 games in the Premier League and I don’t think the points we lost here made the difference,” said the Italian.

“We have lost many points in the whole season. You need to be objective over 37 games.

“By utilising the strength we had I thought we would be able to reach the final and still have a chance (of the top four) with two games to go.

“But you know how demanding it has been for us – we have played every three days in the last eight weeks – and I thought I thought a team which was energetic and fresh mentally would give us a chance.

“We have pushed in every game but Liverpool were better than us.”

A Michael Essien own goal, as well as efforts from Jordan Henderson and Daniel Agger put the hosts 3-0 up inside half an hour, while Stewart Downing hit the crossbar and also drove a penalty against the post.

Ramires pulled one back just after the break but Jonjo Shelvey restored the three-goal cushion with a long-range effort to leave manager Kenny Dalglish a happier man after a string of poor results at Anfield this season.

The victory over Chelsea was only their second at Anfield in the league in 2012 and their sixth in the league at home this season.

“The pleasing thing is the performance was matched by the result and also the fact the supporters could go away from the final match of the season here with a smile on their faces,” said the Scot, whose side were criticised for their lacklustre opening hour at Wembley.

“There’s not a feeling of ’What if?’...it’s a feeling of ’What a result. What a performance’.

“The last half-hour at Wembley and that performance there was a fantastic two hours of football.

“Everyone played their part. The two young boys in the middle of the pitch - Jordan Henderson and Jonjo Shelvey – were magnificent, big Andy (Carroll) was unplayable.

“Luis was fantastic for the (opening) goal but everyone played their part and the old boy at the back (Jamie Carragher) didn’t do too badly.”

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