Despite the visitors having Ricardo Fuller sent off for a stamp after 25 minutes, the Blues needed nearly 70 minutes to break them down, Didier Drogba’s cool first touch and finish providing the only goal of the game.
The Italian boss was pleased enough with what he saw in his second match in charge, telling reporters: “I’m happy we won, it was three points we needed. We need to focus on the positive.
“When you play against Stoke you know it will be difficult to break them down. Given that, the sending off didn’t change much for them, they had two banks of four and defended deep.
“Sometimes you have to win like this to get three points. It’s not always going to be easy or pretty - sometimes you have to win scrappy.
“Today was important for us to win. We needed to move forward and achieve our targets and keep it simple. That’s what the most important aspect was for us.”
The assist for Drogba’s 100th Premier League goal was provided by Juan Mata, who only entered the game as a substitute late in the first half, but Di Matteo denied resting him to prioritise Tuesday’s Champions League second-leg match against Napoli.
“That’s where I played him Tuesday [against Birmingham] and today, he’s very influential there,” the 41-year-old said of his use of the Spaniard behind the central striker.
“I thought it was going to be physical, as it always is against Stoke. I wanted to start with a physical team, that was the idea. I wasn’t thinking about Napoli.
“It’s a question of picking a team for a single game. Next game I will see what I think we need, then make decisions.
“I’m focused on getting the team in the right frame of mind to win the next game. I have 25 players, everybody is fit which is great for the club.”
The Blues now turn their attention to the clash with the Italian side, who hold a 3-1 advantage from the first leg at San Paolo, and Di Matteo remains cautiously optimistic of qualifying.
“We will have to put in a great performance - there’s no doubt they’re a great side,” he admitted.
“They are a good team with exceptional players. We will make their life difficult and try to turn it around. I hope that that point can be to our advantage and we can draw on our experience.
“We have to believe we can turn it around. We will have to be balanced because their threat on the counter is very good. They have players that can hurt you.”
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