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Thomas Tuchel hails semi-final hero Hakim Ziyech for forcing his way back into Chelsea plans

Published on: 17 April 2021

Thomas Tuchel paid tribute to Chelsea’s match-winner Hakim Ziyech for fighting his way back into the German’s plans, and said Saturday's semi-final victory was the first step on the Blues’ path to the top of a footballing mountain.

Ziyech has been in and out of the first team since being signed from Ajax amid much fanfare last year, and the Moroccan fell out of favour under Frank Lampard and then Tuchel.

But he made the most of a rare chance to prove his value on Saturday with the only goal of the game, and Tuchel was delighted.

‘I’m very happy and proud of our performance. We deserved to win against the best manager and one of the best teams,’ said Tuchel.

‘Hakim was very strong against Liverpool and Atletico in the Champions League, but sometimes we have had a different approach with more runners while he is more a dribbler, a passer, a guy who turns in the pockets.

‘Decisions are never personal — sometimes it is the players’ characteristics. He showed me he is ready when he has come off the bench, and from what I saw in training. That is the most important thing.

‘Now come the crucial weeks and nobody can rest on what we have done. We have to keep on going — everybody who is on the pitch needs to deserve to be there and when you are on the pitch, you must play your part 100 per cent and show that you are reliable.

‘This is what Hakim did, it is what Timo (Werner) did and what Kepa (Arrizabalaga) did today and I am very happy for them.’ Tuchel lauded Guardiola and his team, pointing out that they set the standards that Chelsea aspire to.

He said: ‘If you play against Pep you know you play at the highest level in Europe, because he has been on the sidelines with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now Manchester City.

‘For years he was the benchmark with his teams and he is doing it again in the Premier League.

‘Our target was to close the gap for 90 minutes and we did that. It is important for our progression and development because we are a young team with young players. They are very tired now and can enjoy it today, but then it is in the past.’

And Tuchel claimed he does not look too far into the future.

He added: ‘All through my career as a manager I say don’t start thinking too far ahead, don’t put the stakes too high, don’t look at the goals which are in the future.

‘If you want to reach objectives, if you want to climb a mountain, you better start going because just thinking about the top does not get you there. You need to walk.

‘Every journey starts with the first step. Don’t get confused by thinking too much, take it step by step.

‘The target was to get close to Manchester City for 90 minutes and we focused on it and delivered very well. Now we go on to the next one.’


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