Chelsea manager Roberto di Matteo claimed the senior figures within his squad answered their critics in the thrilling 1-0 Champions League semi-final first-leg victory over Barcelona at Stamford Bridge.

Didier Drogba, preferred in attack to Fernando Torres, scored the only goal just before the break that puts the Blues in pole position to reach the final at the Allianz Arena next month. The win came just three days after they hammered Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final.

Di Matteo said: "In the past, a lot of people have had the opinion that our boys were over the line and too old to play at this level. It was not just Didier, but a lot of players in our squad, that they said couldn't play two games in such a short period of time. They gave their answer on the pitch tonight."

Di Matteo also singled out Gary Cahill for special praise after the transfer window arrival from Bolton responded to the opportunity created by David Luiz's hamstring injury in magnificent fashion, helping to keep a much-hyped Barca attack at bay.

"It was a bit of a baptism for Gary," he said. "He has not played much in the Champions League and it was a difficult game. But I am very pleased that he played so well, as did the whole back four."

Chelsea were forced to survive a few scares and Di Matteo refused to celebrate too much, knowing the outcome of the tie will not be settled until next Tuesday's return encounter at the Nou Camp.

"The semi-final on Sunday was going to be our biggest test, then tonight, now next week," he said. "We are facing a lot of tests at the moment.

"I am very pleased with this result but it is only half-time.

"Nothing has been decided yet and we need to play another game like this one if we are going to get through."