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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 3, 2006

Mourinho pays tribute to Euro-bound Rovers

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho feels Blackburn are a different team to the one he slated for their brutal behaviour last season.

Mourinho saw his newly-crowned Premiership champions beaten 1-0 by Rovers at Ewood Park on Tuesday night.

But while acknowledging Blackburn are a more accomplished side to the one that booted his players all over the same ground 15 months ago, the Blues boss was left dismayed at the performance of Steve Bennett.

Referee Bennett dismissed three second-half penalty appeals from Chelsea, with two clear cut for Lucas Neill's trip on Shaun Wright-Phillips and Aaron Mokoena's blatant shirt tug on Hernan Crespo.

Mercifully for Mourinho, with his team claiming a second successive title on Saturday, on this occasion he was able to laugh off the inadequacies of an official.

Instead, he was able to give praise where it was due to a Blackburn side who will be competing in next season's UEFA Cup after their victory confirmed a top-six finish.

'I think they played much better than our last game here,' said Mourinho.

'They still have some personalities who lose their control, but that is about individuals, not about the team. I think the team is a good one who have done brilliantly.

'They play in different ways. They have fast people in attack, they counter attack, they play well down the wings, solid defence - it's a good team and they deserve to be where they are.

'I remember last season when we played them at Stamford Bridge they were bottom of the league, but one-and-a-half years later they are in the UEFA Cup.'

Mourinho, however, felt that Bennett's performance the attention off Blackburn's achievement.

'They deserve to be in the UEFA Cup, but not to finish the job in this way,' added Mourinho.

'Blackburn did their job. They played well in the first half, then they defended well in the second when they fought for their lives and their happiness.

'We played well in the second, but the third team [the officials] had a very bad day.'

Mourinho concedes to having spoken with Bennett after the match, but in such a way so as not to incur the possible wrath of the Football Association.

'I am laughing because I am a champion, but if we had needed points to be a champion then my career in England would be over because I would be suspended forever,' commented Mourinho, knowing the FA would have clamped down hard if he had spoken out of turn.

'I said to the players before the game, 'if you get a red card then you will be suspended for next season, so don't be stupid'.

'So if I say that to the players, I cannot do something that will create a problem for me for next season, so I prefer to laugh and forget.'

There was no disguising Blackburn manager Mark Hughes' delight at the achievement of his side, in particular coming so soon after their battle to beat the drop last season.

After seeing Steven Reid score the only goal of the game just before half-time with a glancing header to a Robbie Savage free-kick for his fifth of the season, Hughes said: 'We deserve it.

'Sometimes you don't always get what you deserve in life and football at times, but I felt the prize on offer was always going to be ours, that we weren't going to be denied.

'There was a real belief in the team that we were going to get the job done. It has been a huge effort by everybody.'

Savage was in agreement, stating: 'What we have achieved is massive.

'A lot was made about me coming here to a smaller club from Birmingham - and I am sorry my old club went down.

'But I'm glad I made the right decision to come to Blackburn, and now we can have a nice summer.'