Grant reflects on the bitterness of defeat

It's back to the drawing board for Chelsea manager after cup final loss to Tottenham Hotspurs.

avram grant 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
avram grant 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Avraham Grant was left to ponder what could have been on Monday, a day after Chelsea was unable to defeat London rival Tottenham in the League Cup final. Grant has been far more successful than was expected when he was appointed to replace Jose Mourinho as Chelsea manager in one of the hottest jobs in soccer. But on Sunday he was outthought by Spurs coach Juande Ramos who's introduction of midfielder Tom Huddlestone for Pascal Chimbonda turned the game. In the end Tottenham rallied to win 2-1 in extra time, giving Spurs their first trophy in nine years. Ramos arrived at Tottenham as the cup final specialist, and it's taken him only four months to prove his can do it in England as well as Spain. Both Ramos and Grant are in their debut seasons in England, and considerable attention was heaped on the coaches in the buildup to the final. Giant images of them with arms-folded and grimacing loomed large over Wembley Way from the side of the stadium and on the scoreboard. Unlike his affable predecessor, Mouriinho, Grant was unable to land the League Cup at the first opportunity. "We win as a team and lose as a team," Grant said. "There are always personal mistakes in football, but we lost as a team. We will see what we can learn from this game." Grant was thrust into the Chelsea hot-seat when owner Roman Abramovich's frustration with Mourinho's staid tactics boiled over, but the Blues are still far from being the entertainers the Russian billionaire longs to see. Grant played Nicolas Anelka alongside Drogba for the first time, but the former Bolton striker was largely isolated and ineffective on the left. Creative midfielder Joe Cole was inserted too late to leave an impression. "It is not a casino. There is no gamble in football," the 52-year-old Grant said. "They can play together, no question. You can't pick players like them and say it's a gamble." Ramos, who won two straight UEFA Cup titles at Sevilla, will immediately turn his focus to winning a third in Europe's No. 2 competition. "To come in after a few months and win a trophy is an incredible achievement," Tottenham striker Robbie Keane said. "He's given us the belief that we can win every game and you can see that in our performances since he took over." With Tottenham faltering under Martin Jol, Ramos was lured from Sevilla, where he also won the Copa del Rey, the Spanish Super Cup and the European Super Cup. "It's always a tremendous satisfaction to win a trophy," Ramos said. "This one maybe has a special flavor to it because it was against a team that was superior to us. Perhaps it makes it taste better." Although Didier Drogba gave Chelsea the lead after a contentious free kick, Dimitar Berbatov equalized in the 70th minute and Jonathan Woodgate headed in his first goal for Tottenham four minutes into extra time. "It's a beautiful experience to win and the format is very different to the finals I've been in before, walking out on a red carpet," Ramos said. The Spaniard's strict regime and ruthless methodology, including ordering his bloated players to diet, has taken Spurs to heights unimaginable during the first troubled weeks of the season. But in triumph, he has eased the restrictions. "It's not a particularly strict diet. It's quite a nice diet and allows them to sometimes eat and drink out of control," Ramos said. "And I've already had a drink with the players." Now Europe is the priority, with PSV Eindhoven facing Tottenham in the UEFA Cup's round of 16 and Ramos already dreaming of the final in May. "The team has been improving little by little in terms of security and the confidence they feel," Ramos said. "This game today has simply reaffirmed that. They have improved their general posture like in games against Manchester United and Arsenal. They have shown they are able to concentrate and to fight with the best of them."