‘It was an excellent performance from the whole team,’ he said. ‘It’s difficult to play against Benfica, they haven’t lost here for a couple of years [in Europe] and we saw why. They are a good side with good individual players and a threat from set-plays. I always felt we looked solid defensively, well organised and I always fancied us to score a goal.
‘We’re pleased we are in a different position going into next leg, we had a mountain to climb against Napoli, this will be as well but it will be a bit smaller because we had a good result here. We’ll see what we can do, but it’s a dangerous result if we think we’ve already qualified, we cannot think we’re through yet.
‘We’ve put ourselves in a good position, yes, but it’s not a result you can rely on for the home game, it’s only one goal and you look at the results which have been achieved in the tournament and we’re not going to sleep easily because of that.’
As expected, Di Matteo made a number of changes to the side, handing rare starts to both Paulo Ferreira and the match-winner Kalou, while leaving experienced stars such as Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba on the bench.
His team selection was justified given the performance and result, and with important matches looming large in what is a gruelling run-in, he admitted that the rotation policy looks set to continue for the remainder of the campaign.
‘We’ve been playing so many high intensity games, Manchester City, Spurs and tonight was another one,’ he argued. ‘It’s a question of trying to energise the team and freshen it up, we knew Benfica played with a high tempo so we needed fresh players who could run, and that was the reason behind it.
‘I’m involving everybody in the squad, I’m rotating, we need everybody until the end of season, Ferreira hasn’t played for a while but he was outstanding for me, we cannot play with only 11 players, and you’re going to see players who have played a bit less play more in the future because it’s just impossible for us to play every three days and reach the fitness levels that are needed to win games.’
‘He failed a fitness test this morning, will need to see how he recovers in the next few days, at the moment he’s doubtful for the weekend, but we hope he can recover as soon as possible,’ he said.