Inter Milan’s Samuel Eto’o says he does not consider his winning goal that knocked-out Didier Drogba’s Chelsea from the European Champions League as “revenge” for not winning the 2009 African Player of the year award.

Eto'o celebrates goal

Tuesday’s  round of 16 clash came less than a week after the Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced Drogba as the continent’s player of 2009 ahead of hot favourite, Eto’o.

Although the Cameroonian hugely contributed to his country’s  qualification to the World Cup (after a poor start) and FC Barcelona’s victories in the Spanish Cup and Premier League and the UEFA Champions League, he finished 3rd behind the Ivorian (Drogba) and his Chelsea team-mate Michael Essien (Ghana).

Media across the continent thus  presented the Chelsea versus Inter duel as a game of “confirmation” for Drogba and one of “vengeance” for Eto’o.

With 78 minutes gone into the scrappy game, Eto’o showed class with a cool control of a Wesley Sneijder pass and shot in flash beating the English keeper Turnbull for the lone goal of the encounter (0-1 and 1-3 on aggregate).

“I didn’t see it as revenge,” Eto’o told the French TV channel Canal+.

“When the announcement [African Player of the Year Award] was made, I called Drogba and congratulated him. I am lucky to have won this title three times and this is sport. You have to accept these things,” he added.

It is the third time that Samuel Eto’o is involved in knocking out Chelsea from the European Cup competition that they crave so much to win. He was actually the last person to have scored a winning goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (London), when his FC Barcelona won 1-2 in the 2005/2006 season.

He was also part of last year’s squad that drew 1-1 with Chelsea  and qualified for the final on the away goals rule. Eto’o went on to score in the curtain raiser in the Catalan’s 2-0 victory over Manchester United.

DROGBA CRACKS AGAIN

Drogba, who has been in scintillating form for his club this year, was sent-off minutes to the end of the encounter after he stepped on Inter’s Thiago Motta.

“As was the case in the [quarter-final] game in 2005, like in the final in 2007 against Manchester United, and as it was the case in last year’s semi-final against Barcelona, Drogba cracked under pressure,” the France Football magazine reported.

“Finally, it is the former FC Barcelona man who put an end to Chelsea’s hopes, proving that he is one of those great men who rise to the occasion when it is a big event,” France Football added.

Eto’o also received kudos for his all-round performance from Cameroon’s head coach Paul Le Guen, and French football legend Zinedine Zidane –  who are both pundits for Canal+.

The striker started at the right of Jose Murinho’s audacious 3-man attack-line, constantly tracking back to support his defenders. He also did same on the left side from where  he drifted in-wards to score his goal.

“Jose asked me to play on the right in order to block Chelsea’s left-back who is good going forward but not really good at defending…that was the tactical plan,” he told Le Guen who interviewed him for Canal+.

LE GUEN INTERVIEWS ETO’O

When asked by Le Guen if he preferred to play on the right (as he did in that game) or on the left as he usually does for the national team, Eto’o said it wasn’t for him to choose where to play.

“Coach, I play where it is useful and according to the tactical plan of the coach…” he said.

Debate has been rife in Cameroon whether Samuel Eto’o should play in a more central role than he currently does for the Indomitable Lions.  Under the assumption that he wields too much power in the national team, some have accused him of lacking tactical discipline.

The interview showed that it is the coach who decides on where to play Eto’o and other tactical decisions like who takes free-kicks or corners. Clearly, Eto’o does not determine those aspects by himself.

Le Guen, who acknowledged during play-by-play commentary that Eto’o had been facing a dip in form since returning from the Africa Cup, hoped that this would be a boost for his captain, although he also advised Eto’o [during a Live TV interview] to reserve some energy for the World Cup in June.

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