Chelsea Galatasaray stalemate keeps Mourinho's boys on course for last eight
Galatasaray 1 Chelsea 1
Published 27/02/2014 | 08:20
The great English collapse in the Champions League has finally been halted, although even Jose Mourinho's team will have some work to do to go through when Galatasaray return to Stamford Bridge.
There is every chance that come the quarter-final draw next month, Mourinho's Chelsea will be the last men standing from the richest league in world football.
They escaped Istanbul with a draw and that precious away goal from Fernando Torres, and in three weeks they will be favourites to finish the job against Roberto Mancini's team in London.
Even so, as Real Madrid demolished Schalke 6-1 in their first-leg tie in Germany, it was a reminder that some of the other powerhouses in this competition are finding life much easier.
Mourinho's former club were 6-1 winners here when they played in the group stages in September, although that was the only time that Galatasaray have lost at home in any competition this season.
The Turkish side came roaring back into this tie in the second half when Mancini rectified an imbalance in midfield and the Cameroon international Aurelien Chedjou came up with the equaliser.
In that moment, Chelsea could be accused of letting their concentration slip but otherwise this was a creditable performance.
Much more astute than their opponents in the first half, Chelsea were then forced to rely on all their defensive doggedness after the break.
There was to be no goal for Galatasaray from Didier Drogba to spark the conflicting emotions in the former Chelsea man. But then, he always was a lot more lethal at Stamford Bridge.
The striker was substituted before the end, and if Galatasaray are to do anything in London, then Drogba will be crucial.
It was a first-half masterclass from Chelsea, complete with the early goal to unsettle their opponents and then a high-tempo hustle in midfield that closed down the options for Galatasaray at every turn.
Mourinho picked a team with a few surprises in it. Torres was starting his first game since January 11 and his first since his return from the knee ligament injury picked up in the home win over Manchester United. He has not been trusted in a game of this magnitude for a while.
There was no risk taken with David Luiz, who was not even on the bench. Andre Schurrle began in the three behind Torres. The German has started just two games in the FA Cup since before Christmas. In midfield, Frank Lampard was given the place alongside Ramires with Nemanja Matic cup-tied and John Obi Mikel on the bench.
The first thing to say about Chelsea was that they looked hungry. They were ready to chase down every Galatasaray break-out from midfield and close down relentlessly, no-one more so than Willian, who is becoming Mourinho's favourite soldier, and the Brazilian helped to shut down the threat that Wesley Sneijder posed on the right.
The creation of the goal came chiefly from the impressive Cesar Azpilicueta, who won the ball in his own half and fed it inside, where it went from Eden Hazard to Schurrle and back to the overlapping Azpilicueta, who had made up some distance down the left.
He picked out the run of Torres who had far too much space in the area and rolled the ball into the goal nicely.
Mancini's team had been leaving gaps through their defence for the whole half and Chelsea ran through them at will.
They counter-attacked with pace and, despite having just 43 per cent of the possession in the first half, managed easily more attempts on goal than their opponents.
They almost scored in the fourth minute when Fernando Muslera, the Galatasaray goalkeeper, cleared the ball straight to Willian and only just managed to head the resulting lob clear.
For much of the first half, Mancini's team just defended too high. As for Drogba, he was forced to survive on very little with John Terry paying him close attention.
That was shaping up to be an epic battle between the two old team-mates and Terry certainly won the first half, though he did get lucky just before the interval when the Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo disallowed a Galatasaray equaliser.
It is possible that Petr Cech had already stopped before Burak Yilmaz blasted the ball past him. Either way, Carballo stopped the match and Terry was booked for delaying play by holding on to the ball when another had been thrown on to the pitch to restart the game.
Mancini (pictured) switched to 4-5-1 after half an hour, with Yilmaz brought back into midfield and Yekta Kurtulus on for Izet Hajrovic, which had a more stabilising effect in his side.
They came back into the game after the break, although there was one scare when Torres burst through the middle on 52 minutes. It would have been a brilliant goal but for Muslera's excellent save.
At the other end, Galatasaray were asking more pertinent questions of their opponents. Drogba urged his side on, and his header on 63 minutes should have been nudged in by the Galatasaray captain Selcuk Inan but somehow he managed to strike the post.
Within a minute, they had their equaliser. A corner from Sneijder eluded both Azpilicueta and Terry, and centre-back Chedjou met the ball from a few yards out.
It had the effect of getting the home crowd back on side.
But in the end, Galatasaray ran into that old Chelsea determination not to give in that has served them so well in Europe.
It certainly has been missing of late in their fellow English competitors – United, City and Arsenal – in the Champions League.