Following our narrow 1-0 defeat against Chelsea in the Emirates FA Cup fifth round on Thursday evening, Valérien Ismaël expressed his pride in the Reds’ performance as they gave one of the best teams in world football an almighty scare at Oakwell.
Only Tammy Abraham’s close range tap-in midway through the second half separated the two sides in a game where Barnsley will look back on missed opportunities as a place in the quarter-finals slipped through our grasp.
“First of all, for us, the most important thing was the performance to compete at that level,” began our Head Coach. “I think in the first half, especially, we were the best team; we had two big chances to score – we have to score.
“In the second half, Chelsea changed their shape and had more control of the game and we have had to adapt, but we did it well. We didn’t keep the pressure on the ball and they punished us but, after, we kept pushing and had two big opportunities to score again until the end.
“It is a good feeling for the guys to know that we can compete at this level and make it really unpleasant for Chelsea. For sure, you want to win all the time but you have to score and if you don’t score, you can’t win the game. In the first half, the possibilities were there.”
Callum Brittain twice came agonisingly close to giving Barnsley a deserved lead before the interval, while Michael Sollbauer saw his hooked effort headed off the line by Abraham as the Reds pushed for what would have been a deserved late leveller.
It wasn’t to be, unfortunately, but our Head Coach reflected on a gallant effort from his side, who need to regroup for the last few months of what has so far been a promising Sky Bet Championship campaign.
“I’m really proud of the guys,” exuded Ismaël. “They gave everything to play; they raised their own performance at that level, which is what we needed to compete.
“They believed and had determination in everything and this is what we need if they want to make the next step as young players. It was an excellent learning process for the guys to see that we made a very great performance.
“For a few weeks now, the development of the team is clearly visible. We have had a tough schedule in January with all the top teams in the Championship and the cup and now we’ve had Chelsea.
“But, all the time, it was a top game – we were really close to winning. We won against Norwich in the cup and this was the same thing, but it will give us the confidence we need to go in the Championship to know we can compete.
“It will be the same on Sunday, but we have to recover now because we will need the same performance and the same determination to win the game. Now we need the results.”
You can watch Valérien’s post-match press conference on iFollow Barnsley.