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May 10, 2009

Hiddink defends Drogba ahead of UEFA sanctions

Guus Hiddink believes it would be "curious'' if UEFA were to heavily punish Chelsea or striker Didier Drogba in the fall-out from the Champions League exit to Barcelona at Stamford Bridge.

UEFA have yet to rule on the unacceptable over-reaction from several of the Blues players - most notably a foul-mouthed tirade into a live TV camera by Drogba - following their controversial midweek exit in the Champions League to a late Barcelona away goal.

However, following this afternoon's 4-1 thrashing of Arsenal at Emirates Stadium which secured third place in the table, the Dutch coach, in charge until the end of the season, praised his team's reaction and called on the disciplinary chiefs at Europe's governing body to show compassion.

Hiddink had no qualms about selecting Drogba. He said: "We do not live with headlines, whether they are right or not, that is not the big issues. Drogba has always fought for the team. Everyone has talked about the incident afterwards, but in the game there were no incidents, everyone respected each other.

"He [Drogba] saw what he did wrong and apologised strongly. We do not know what is going to happen regarding that, but when the people in charge at UEFA they have the feeling of being football people and not bureaucratic authorities, then they might perfectly understand that the big apology of his was okay.

"So I do not expect much from that, it would be curious I think.''

Hiddink praised Drogba's attitude. "We said 'everyone is focused on you, but if you play the simple game you have, you have efficiency for the team', which he did,'' said Hiddink.

"He took a perfect free-kick for Alex, which was a beautiful header and he worked as he should. He did not react to any challenges.''

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger, however, felt Drogba had won the free-kick which led to Chelsea's opening goal and saw Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas cautioned for dissent at suggesting the Ivory Coast striker had dived.

Asked if he believed Drogba had indeed taken a tumble, Wenger said: "We live in a league now where the divers are rewarded. It is not right, but it is like that. I do not want to go into any individual assessments. It is down to the referee to do his job.

"I don't think it (the free-kick) should have been given, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't win the header after that. The referee will make some decisions for you or against you, but we should still have cleared the ball from the cross.''

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