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Chelsea topple the Turks to cruise into last eight

By Ian Herbert

They loved Didier Drogba at Stamford Bridge before last night and they will love him just as much after his first return in the shirt of an opponent – because as far as Chelsea were concerned this was precisely the kind of final farewell to an old favourite that they had in mind.

Even the greats of the game have to accept that their powers wane at some point and there could be no greater illustration of that than seeing Drogba, scorer of 157 goals in eight seasons at Chelsea, reduced to the periphery he so rarely occupied as a player here.

At Stamford Bridge, they acclaimed Drogba as one of the greats of their club and then watched in quiet satisfaction as he turned in one of his least influential performances on this ground.

Panic over, for Jose Mourinho and those who feared a haunting from Drogba. Chelsea are safely through to the last eight of the Champions League where they wait to see whether they will be joined by Manchester United tonight as the only English representatives. It could hardly have been more straightforward in a game that the home team controlled from start to finish.

The game barely looked in doubt from the fourth minute when Samuel Eto'o opened the scoring. Gary Cahill claimed the second before half-time and the home fans felt sufficiently confident to start singing Drogba's name again with five minutes of the match to play.

On Friday, Mourinho's team are in what will surely be one of the most competitive quarter-final draws in the history of the competition but, they would not wish to be anywhere else.

Certainly the next round will be a great deal more competitive than this stroll against a poor Galatasaray side where there was not a save of note for Petr Cech to make and the anticipated fightback from the away side never truly got under way.

Wesley Sneijder was poor too and the flanks were dominated by Eden Hazard and Willian.

Galatasaray gave themselves the proverbial mountain to climb within four minutes.

There was a glowering response from Roberto Mancini on the touchline when his players conceded the first goal to Eto'o, almost as if it had nothing to do with the manager himself.

His team had been cut apart through the middle where the rampaging Felipe Melo, later to get himself booked, went missing and Hazard opened up his opponent with ease.

The Belgian took the ball on his chest, spun off, and laid it wide to Oscar, while Eto'o hung on to the line of a very disjointed Galatasaray defence.

There were wide spaces between the two centre-halves Aurelien Chedjou and Semih Kaya all night for the striker to exploit.

On this occasion, Eto'o took his chance well, breaking at the correct moment, moving the ball with his right foot and then hitting it quickly past Fernando Muslera who got a hand to the shot.

Chelsea were up and running. As for Drogba, his first half turned into a bit of a nightmare, in the nicest possible way.

The love-in began with a presentation on the pitch before the match, where he was accompanied by his son Isaac, who is at the Chelsea academy.

On the pitch things went less smoothly for him.

There was an attempt at an overhead kick which went off a bit half-cocked. A free-kick went so extravagantly high and wide that it struck the orange "Drogba Legend" banner on the second tier of the Matthew Harding stand.

John Terry executed a very nice volley on the run from Frank Lampard's free-kick from the left on 33 minutes but having made the difficult connection just lifted it over the bar.

A cut back from Eto'o to Willian on 38 minutes was the wrong choice with Oscar in more space.

Then the second goal came three minutes before the break. Terry headed goalwards from Lampard's corner, Muslera saved but pushed the ball back into the six-yard area where Cahill lashed it into the top of the goal. As there was in Istanbul in the first leg, Mancini worked a change in his formation, switching to 3-5-2 after the break, albeit with very little effect.

Drogba's labours got even worse with the ball bouncing off him and then a booking for an attempt to trip Cesar Azpilicueta.

As for a response from Mancini's side, there was perilously little of note.

They never looked like they had the confidence or the pace to break down a very solid Chelsea team with Ramires and Lampard bossing the midfield and Cahill and Terry unbreakable in the centre of defence.

Chelsea should really have scored a third two minutes from time when Fernando Torres, a substitute for Eto'o, had just Muslera to beat but could not shape his shot around the goalkeeper.

At the end Drogba left the pitch, having first acknowledged the Galatasaray fans, to a rapturous applause from the whole stadium.

He did not milk it – that would have been a little insensitive to his current employers – but he lingered long enough to enjoy the moment. Goodness knows, he deserves it even if this, probably his last game at the ground, will be one he does not choose to remember with any fondness.

Belfast Telegraph


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