Diving Force Behind Chelsea Victory: A Didier Drogba of Two Halves

Ed PearceCorrespondent IApril 15, 2009

LONDON - APRIL 14:  Didier Drogba and Michael Ballack of Chelsea celebrate the goal scored by Alex of Chelsea during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on April 14, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

The picture shows what was for much of last night a rare sight indeed;  Didier Drogba takes contact and remains standing.  

It is an enduring mystery how such a powerful and explosive striker with everything to gain from staying upright is so often to be found writhing on the floor.

For all the thrills and spills, slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that swept Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night, the moment that made me sit up in shock was the following piece of commentary: "Drogba rides the tackle."

Emile Heskey's famed ability to flip from vertical to horizontal with little encouragement might be more understandable, given his goal-shy record, but a vertical Drogba is a force of nature.   As he showed in the second half, he can turn a game with his power and finesse.

At least the similarly capricious and more often maligned Ronaldo's game is based on an agile trickery that is inherently unstable and prone to being knocked off balance.  The direct and robust Drogba has no such excuse.

Early in the game Drogba fell after a fair tackle on the halfway line gave him a knock on the knee.   Liverpool rightly played on for a good minute or more - only a head injury or real agony merits stopping the game, in spirit or law - only for the referee to stop the game.

The referee's pathetic decision was bad enough, as Drogba hobbled to his feet the moment play was stopped, keen not to receive treatment and have to leave the field, but Drogba's own behaviour was worse.

Replays showed that his dramatic descent to the turf had carried him over the touchline, safely able to receive treatment and collect himself without interrupting play. 

However, the Ivorian striker chose to roll back onto the pitch before displaying such prolonged and intense discomfort that the official felt compelled to stop the game.

It is hard to say whether referee or player should have been more ashamed when the whistle blew, as Drogba climbed immediately to his feet and Kalou returned the ball for Liverpool to resume their slick passing game.   

Much is said about continuity, letting the game flow and the overall spectacle of football.   Thankfully, a terrific game deflected attention from the antics of powder-puff forward and diffident team to power-packed forward and his teammates.

A fired-up Drogba supplied the game-changing goal before the hour mark, muscling ahead of his marker to touch the ball away from Reina's expectant grasp.  

Suddenly, he was on fire:  a free-kick curled just past the post to ruffle the net on the rebound; the tenacious Carragher was shrugged off like an importunate beggar; the Ivorian skipped away from Skrtl's challenge to lay on Lampard's coup de grace.

When the crowd salute this man they should adapt the terrace classic:  "There's only two Didier Drogbas!"