Guus Hiddink was refusing to take the credit for Didier Drogba rediscovering his mojo in Wednesday night’s slender Champions League win over Juventus.
Drogba has cut a very disillusioned figure this season but the departure of ‘Phil’ Scolari has already been accompanied by signs of renewed enthusiasm from the Ivorian.
The striker carried the menace of old and made the difference in a tight first leg contest at the Bridge that gives the Blues a better-than-even chance of reaching the quarter finals.
Chelsea will need to have their wits about them in Turin when battle resumes in a fortnight and there was plenty to think about as they worked to keep a clean sheet in this week’s meeting.
They faded badly in the second half and questions remain about their overall fitness this season after Scolari’s more relaxed training regime. But if they do get through, they will know who had a big say in the tie.
Drogba neatly drilled in a clever pass from Salomon Kalou after 12 minutes which turned out to be the only goal of the night, but his sheer presence carried a menace up front that has often been missing this season.
“I will not talk about the past because I was not here to judge but what I normally ask from players is to be very committed and I didn’t even have to ask when I was here my first day," Hiddink said.
“I discovered no player who I had to motivate. If I had to motivate a player, then I think I’d start fighting with him or neglecting him. I didn’t have this problem at all with Drogba and from the first day I was here, he enjoyed training, he worked hard. He worked hard in the first game against Aston Villa and again tonight.”
Chelsea were not overly-stretched in terms of clear-cut chances conceded, but they surrendered a great deal of possession in the second half and were also indebted to a fine reflex save from Petr Cech to deny Alessandro Del Pierro midway through the first half.
It underlined the small margin for error that exists when it comes down to the knock-out phase of the Champions League and Hiddink – who was in charge at the Bridge for the first time since his arrival – believes the small advantage could prove significant.
“It’s good that we have a clean sheet and now Juventus have to try and score at home. It will be difficult and we have the smallest gap but we have an advantage.
“I’m satisfied with the narrow result, but overall I’m not satisfied. After the goal, we dropped back too far. We were a little bit anxious after the goal.”
Although many Blues fans welcomed their first sighting of Hiddink, they reserved most of their emotions for Juve boss Claudio Ranieri, who was afforded an affectionate ovation for his four years in charge at the Bridge.
“I have to say I was extremely happy because it shows they hadn’t forgotten me. I spent four wonderful years here and had great times. I was very happy with that welcome and with the applause – particularly because in football, people tend to forget things very quickly and I’d like to thank them.”