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Feb 25, 2009

Hiddink hails Drogba after battling performance

Guus Hiddink insists he has never had a problem with goal hero Didier Drogba's commitment or motivation since taking over as interim coach at Stamford Bridge.

Drogba, his season hampered by injury, suspension and a fall out with former boss Luiz Felipe Scolari, looked back to his predatory best when he pounced to fire the 12th-minute winner in the 1-0 Champions League last-16 first-leg triumph over Juventus tonight.

The Ivorian was axed by Scolari amid suggestions of a personality clash between the pair but Hiddink, in charge of his side at Stamford Bridge for the first time, has had no concerns with the striker or any other members of the squad.

Drogba's goal provided Chelsea with a slender advantage ahead of the second leg in Turin in a fortnight and Hiddink was full of praise for his efforts.

"I cannot and will not talk about the past because I was not here to judge, but what I normally ask from professional players is to be very committed," said the Dutchman.

"There has not been one player that I have had to motivate. If I had to motivate a player, then I think I start fighting with him or neglecting him, generally speaking.

"I have not had this problem at all with Drogba. From the first day I was here, he enjoyed training and worked hard. He worked hard against Villa and again tonight. So I don't have any problems with under-motivated players."

Chelsea began the game at an exceptionally high tempo but Hiddink accepted that his side faded badly in the second half.

But while they managed to prevent Juventus from scoring an all-important away goal, the Dutchman concedes the tie is far from over.

"I am satisfied with a narrow 1-0 win but overall I am not satisfied," he added.

"We cannot be satisfied. In the first part we started very good and opened our attacks through the wings. We were dangerous in the first 15 or 20 minutes.

"But after the goal we dropped back and allowed some distance between our attack, midfield and defence, so Juve could play the ball in between.

"If we had continued to play the way we did in the first 20 minutes, we could have scored another goal.

"We had some attacks in the second half but Juventus dominated. But although they created danger they did not have one open chance for an equaliser.

"It is good to have a clean sheet. Juventus now have to try and score. We will try to score there. But it will be difficult. Juve are smart and are always dangerous around the box. It will be hard."

Meanwhile, former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri was delighted with the warm reception he received from the home fans before the kick-off but rued the lack of an away goal.

Ranieri never won a trophy in his four years in charge at Stamford Bridge but received a louder round of applause than Hiddink.

"I have to say I was extremely happy with the reception, because it showed they had not forgotten me," said Ranieri. "I spent four years here and I enjoyed them."

"I would like to thank them for the reception. But scoring an away goal in a match like this would have been better for us.

"We knew going into the game that it would be difficult. That's why it was important for us to try and get a goal.

"The players are happy with the performance and Gianluigi Buffon is saying that it is our best against an English side, but perhaps it would have been better to play not so well and get a result."

Ranieri, who left the Blues in the summer of 2004, was pleased with the display and relieved Juventus kept the margin at 1-0.

"We wanted to be playing at a high tempo from the beginning but it just didn't happen. Chelsea prevented it from happening to a certain extent," he added.

"I felt that we shut them down and went on the attack. Had we conceded a second goal it would have made our task even harder."

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