Mark Schwarzer has been discussing his role in Tuesday’s Champions League shutout, and looking ahead as he takes centre stage at a pivotal point in the season.
The 41-year-old was summoned from the substitutes’ bench 18 minutes into our goalless Champions League semi-final first leg in Madrid, earning us an important clean sheet that leaves us in a strong position ahead of next week’s return game at Stamford Bridge.
It was the Australian’s second appearance in four days having not played before that since January, and explained afterwards his pleasure at being involved.
‘I really enjoyed the experience, I really enjoyed the game,’ he said. ‘Even at the age of 41 you can experience something new. To play a Champions League semi-final was fantastic. It was unbelievable playing in a Champions League game a couple of months ago, and now to play at this stage as fantastic.
‘I am glad I could play my part to get a good result ahead of the return leg. It’s half-time and it’s 0-0 but we can’t underestimate them. They have quality all over the pitch, can score from anywhere and we need to make sure we play at our best.’
Asked whether the defensive display had been a perfectly executed game plan, the goalkeeper suggested there was only one thing missing.
‘Maybe we didn’t get forward enough and take advantage of some of the small opportunities we had,’ Schwarzer said. ‘Defensively without a doubt, we were set up to try not to concede and give ourselves a good platform.
‘I can understand the purists want to see attacking football and goals going in, there’s nothing better than watching that, a 0-0 can be a bit boring sometimes, but as a team we want to get through to the final. Defending is a massive part of the game, and it’s underestimated.’
Tuesday night was just Schwarzer’s seventh appearance since switching from Fulham, where he had been first choice for five years. It was a move he does not regret.
‘It’s been a new experience and it’s been tough but I made a decision and it’s been great in a lot of ways,’ he said. ‘The experiences I’ve had as part of this team I wouldn’t have had anywhere else. You know somewhere along the line maybe you’ll get an opportunity and it as one of those.
‘The opportunity to sign for Chelsea and be a part of this was too great in the end. You could write a book about it.’
With Petr Cech now expected to be out of action until the end of the season, Schwarzer finds himself thrust into the limelight at a critical period. Next up are league leaders Liverpool at Anfield, where a win would reignite our title hopes.
‘We’ll see with Pete and I hope it’s not too serious. Our relationship is fantastic and he’s a really good guy.
‘[Now, we] have to focus on the next match, which is a rather large one on Sunday. There’s always a chance while it’s mathematically possible. We have to go there with the mindset that we want to win the game. We’ve beaten the top teams this season and want to keep that going. Liverpool are the frontrunners and have everything to lose, and we need to go there and spoil their party.’