Sunday, 20 May 2012
DROGBA BANISHES SPOT-KICK AGONY
Didier Drogba revealed he had been haunted by the memory of his African Nations Cup penalty miss as he stepped up to take Chelsea's Champions League winner against Bayern Munich.
In February, Drogba was left disconsolate after he blasted a penalty over the bar in Ivory Coast's Nations Cup final defeat to Zambia, a costly blunder that ultimately cost his team victory.
The 34-year-old former African player of the year revealed his mind had drifted back to that unhappy moment in Libreville as he stepped up take Chelsea's decisive penalty in their 4-3 shoot-out win.
"I was confident before going to take it but I still had in my head what happened in the African Nations Cup when I could have won the final for my team," Drogba told reporters. "So it was very difficult."
However the Chelsea striker said he had been determined not to let down Chelsea's goalkeeping hero Petr Cech, who had saved an extra-time spot kick from Arjen Robben before denying Ivica Olic in the shoot-out.
"Petr Cech was as always the best goalkeeper in the world," said Drogba, who had also equalised for Chelsea in the 88th minute to take the game into extra-time. "All the saves Petr made to get to that point. He took us there. So when I went to take it I wanted to score for him, for my teammates."
Drogba's shoot-out winner also exorcised the striker's demons from Chelsea's 2008 Champions League final defeat to Manchester United in Moscow.
On that occasion Drogba had been sent off in the dying seconds of the game, depriving Chelsea of one of their best penalty-takers in the subsequent shoot-out won by United.
"I wanted to make Chelsea smile compared to the other time where we were all down and some players were crying," Drogba said. "I'm happy we made them smile."
The irony for Drogba is that Saturday's winning penalty could well be his last kick in a Chelsea shirt.
The veteran is out of contract this summer and has yet to agree a new deal with Chelsea, who are reportedly reluctant to offer the striker the two-year extension he is seeking.
Drogba later rejected suggestions that his winning goal might influence
his decision to stay at Chelsea.
"I don't think we can take decisions in emotional moments like this," he said. "The most important thing is not my future, the most important thing is what we acheieved, the way the players were fighting to win this cup."
Drogba meanwhile said the turning point in a rollercoaster season came towards the end of Chelsea's 3-1 away defeat to Napoli in the Champions League last season when Ashley Cole made a desperate goal-line clearance that prevented the Blues from losing 4-1.
Chelsea eventually overturned the deficit in the home leg with a 4-1 win at Stamford Bridge to turn around their campaign.
"For me the change of the season, was what Ashley Cole did in Napoli. Nobody speaks about this moment," Drogba said.
"Everyone speaks about my goals. But that moment, that was the turning point of our season. We could have been 4-1 down and all done."