Hiddink rejects Barca criticism


LONDON, May 2 – Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink has hit out at claims Chelsea used "dirty tricks" to secure last week's goalless draw with Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final.GUUS_HIDDINKThe Catalans voiced criticism of what they saw as an overly physical approach to the encounter but Hiddink has no intention of apologising.

"It was a man’s match," he said on Friday. "There were some collisions, but from either side. It’s a man’s game. They were controlling and dominating the game and I’d have liked to have had some more initiatives, but they controlled it.

"I don’t like to give in that easily. We were well organised and played well, defensively. I’d like to have taken a little bit more of the initiative, but they are a disciplined team as well.

"Under Pep Guardiola, they know how to defend firmly and their centre-back, too, isn’t afraid to make the game tough. On top of that, they can play.

"We would, of course, have liked to play more, but we were playing the best team in their concept of football.

"We didn’t want to play ‘anti-football’. This team has proved for several months, and at the beginning of the season, that they can play football.

"But we were not able to start a good attacking game in Barcelona – you can blame us for not starting well and they made it difficult.

"We don’t like to allow them to take the victory. This team has the character to fight as well."

Hiddink’s comments reflected the extent to which Chelsea are preoccupied by Wednesday’s second leg. But the Dutchman must first focus on Saturday’s clash with local rivals Fulham, who are chasing a place in next season’s Europa Cup.

Chelsea cannot afford to be too complacent about their occupation of third place in the Premier League with Arsenal, who they will face at the Emirates on May 10, only six points behind them.

"There might be one or two changes for the Fulham match," Hiddink said. "But it’s not that we’re going to decrease the quality of the players coming in.

"We have players on the bench with the quality to perform well. Maybe one or two will start tomorrow. We take this game very seriously.

"Roy Hodgson is doing a tremendous job at Fulham. He’s one of the older managers, like me, who knows that the job is difficult.

"I respect the job he’s doing. He’s a man with a lot of experience and dignity. They’ve proved what can be achieved with a small squad for a prolonged period."