After taking an early lead Chelsea were eventually forced to settle for a 1-1 draw with Galatasaray on Wednesday, a result that nevertheless will surely leave Jose Mourinho relatively confident of progressing from the tie.
Fernando Torres’ strike after less than 10 minutes got the Blues off to the perfect start in the Champions League last-16 tie in Istanbul. But Galatasaray gradually grew into the contest and eventually grabbed an equaliser through Aurelien Chedjou—giving Roberto Mancini’s side real hope going into the second leg at Stamford Bridge in three weeks' time.
Nevertheless, Chelsea will be confident that they can get the home result they need to move into the last eight of this year’s competition.
They will have to be wary of their opponents’ threat, however—especially Didier Drogba, who will be wanting to get the goal against his old club that eluded him on this occasion.
Afterwards, Mourinho told Sky Sports:
This is Turkey, this is Istanbul, this is Galatasaray. It's a big club with big players and it's not easy. In the first half it was our game—we had chances to kill the game.
The result is not amazing, the situation in the second leg will be difficult but if Stamford Bridge can give 10% of what this stadium gave Galatasaray, it will be brilliant for us.
Mourinho, as is often his wont, caused something of a surprise with his team selection, opting for Frank Lampard in central midfield and Andre Schurrle, not Oscar, in the position in and around lead striker Torres.
Galatasaray were slightly more predictable, with Wesley Sneijder and Drogba both selected, and January signing Alex Telles in defence.
From the start, however, it was clear that Chelsea had the better game-plan, with the home side often very open at the back and struggling for space or invention further forward. The visitors, in contrast, looked difficult to break down but always seemed to have an outlet going forward, two ominous signs for Galatasaray.
In the end, it took just nine minutes for Chelsea to grab the lead. There had already been warning signs—Fernando Muslera forced into an unorthodox headed save after scuffing his clearance straight to Willian—but the goal itself was an example of clinical counter-attacking, as Cesar Azpilicueta ran beyond the full-back, drew Muslera from his line before squaring for Torres, who slotted home from barely six yards out.
The vociferous crowd at the Turk Telekom Arena were silenced, and continued to be so for much of the rest of the opening 45 minutes, as Chelsea continued to remain rock solid at the back while probing when given the chance further forward.
At one point Galatasaray did have the ball in the net thanks to striker Burak Yilmaz, although that was disallowed because there were two balls on the pitch at the time—as John Terry cynically threw the original ball onto the pitch as the home side provided a quick throw-on for Burak with a replacement one.
Although one wonders what Terry was supposed to do with the ball in his hands, he nevertheless received a yellow card for his actions from the referee—although the home supporters remained more incensed that their goal had been chalked off.
Having replaced winger Izet Hajrovic after just 30 minutes to reinforce his midfield (perhaps an admission that his initial selection was wrong), at half-time Mancini also replaced struggling central defender Hakan Balta with Semih Kaya.
The move did not immediately change things, with Torres forcing a decent low save from Muslera after outrunning both Kaya and Chedjou. Chelsea did not have it all their own way, however, with Cech forced to scramble across his goalmouth after Cahill had awkwardly deflected a driven ball across the box.
As in the first half it was Galatasaray enjoying more of the possession but creating none of the gilt-edged chances, but that started to change around the hour-mark. Mancini’s side were suddenly more threatening but could not get the breakthrough, with Selcuk Inan somehow hitting the post from barely a yard out after meeting Drogba’s astute knockdown.
The miss did not necessarily feel like a warning shot, but it proved to be one, as the home side were on terms within minutes. It was a rare moment of slack defending from Chelsea that caused it, as Cech failed to come for a corner as Terry lost his man, a combination that allowed Chedjou the simplest of finishes from three yards out.
Mourinho immediately made a change, sacrificing Schurrle for John Obi Mikel with the obvious aim of bolstering his side’s defensive efforts. It was a sensible move in the circumstances, but it seemed to cede more of the territory to Galatasaray, who continued to attack with verve—with only a fine save from Cech preventing Telles from giving his side the lead from range.
From then on, however, the presence of Mikel alongside Lampard and Ramires seemed to have the desired effect, as Chelsea reduced Galatasaray’s threat and, ultimately, held on for a draw that is unlikely to unduly disappoint their manager.
Afterwards, Lampard noted to Sky Sports:
We were a little bit disappointed at half-time that we weren't more than 1-0 up.
We controlled the first half, they didn't have any chances and we had four or five on the counter. But when it's only 1-0, you know with the atmosphere here they can always get back in the game.
They had a big period in the second half—we ended up sitting back a bit too much, which is disappointing. We've still got a lot of work to do.
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The second leg between the two sides takes place at Stamford Bridge on March 18.
Before that Chelsea have three Premier League fixtures—away to Fulham, at home to Tottenham Hotspur, then away to Aston Villa.
Galatasaray also have three league games—away to Caykur Rizespor, at home to Akhisar Belediyespor and away to Karabukspor.