He had already made his Champions League debut this season at the age of 41, and Mark Schwarzer’s experience in the competition continues to grow with the important part he played in the semi-final first leg.
When Petr Cech was injured with less than 20 minutes of the game in Madrid gone, it was time for the Australian keeper to reacquaint himself with opposition he last faced when playing for Fulham in the Europa League final in 2010.
On that occasion he was beaten twice as Atletico ran out 2-1 winners, but on Tuesday night for Chelsea he was able to continue keeping the clean sheet started by Cech, to leave the tie finely poised ahead of next week’s game in London.
For both the team and Schwarzer it was important to bounce back strongly from the weekend defeat against Sunderland, although he wouldn’t have anticipated the chance coming so soon when Cech recovered from illness to take his place at the start of this Champions League tie.
‘I was obviously disappointed about the performance and the result on Saturday against Sunderland,’ said Schwarzer following last night’s 0-0 draw.
‘It is one of those things as a goalkeeper, you make a bit of an error and you can get punished for it and that happened to me at the weekend. You just have to get back to your basics, believe in your own ability and I just went out there and tried to play my own game and play to the best of my abilities.
‘I really enjoyed the game, the atmosphere was fantastic, and although I played against Atletico before, it is the first time I have played here, and to play a Champions League semi-final, in Madrid, with the atmosphere like it was, even with all the pressure on I actually enjoyed it.’
Schwarzer explained there was not time for much to go through his head when it became clear Cech couldn’t continue having fallen badly when keeping out a corner.
‘I am always prepared and I am getting used to sitting down and being ready to play at the last moment. It is always tough to do but the manager said to me just believe in yourself and even at my age, it is good to hear things like that and nice that he knows just at the right time to say the right things.
‘You have to take it how it comes, that is my position at the club, and I am relishing the opportunity to play at such a fantastic club and have these opportunities to play in such huge occasions.’
Back in December, Schwarzer played the whole of a 1-0 group game win over Steaua Burcharest. Looking at his latest Eruopean outing as a whole, he believes everyone played a part in keeping at bay an Atletico side who have scored 109 goals this season in all competitions.
‘Everyone was right up for it, and we have world-class players throughout the side and you don’t expect anything less. We knew if we could match them in determination that our quality could come through and okay, we didn’t create too many chances but we did a good job.
‘We did our job all over the team and you can’t single anyone out.
‘Chelsea over the last five or 10 years have always shown determination and when they got to the Champions League final a couple of years ago against Bayern Munich they were excellent at defending, and tonight again was another outstanding performance when it comes to defending.’
The downside of the game was the loss of two players for the second leg due to suspension, Frank Lampard and John Mikel Obi, and Cech with his injury. John Terry went off before the end too.
‘JT has been rock solid in defence for us all season, losing him would be a huge blow and I am a bit gutted about it because I actually clipped him when I went through for a cross,’ revealed Schwarzer.
‘You obviously focus on the ball and not anyone else, and it was just an unfortunate incident. Hopefully it won’t be too serious.’
– A clip of Mark Schwarzer talking to Chelsea TV after the game can be viewed above (subject to registration) with the full interview available now via the channel’s online access.