Didier Drogba’s homecoming did not have the ending he would have wanted, as two first-half goals enabled Chelsea to cruise into the quarter-finals of the Champions League at the expense of Galatasaray.
Drogba, now of the Turkish champions, was welcomed by banners and even a special presentation ceremony before kick-off at Stamford Bridge, but it was another African of similar repute who needed just three minutes to turn the tie in his side’s favour.
Samuel Eto’o slipped in behind the Gala defence and then beat Fernando Muslera with a low drive to break the 1-1 deadlock provided by the first leg, with Gary Cahill’s emphatic finish minutes before half-time further strengthening Jose Mourinho’s hand.
In truth, the visitors had looked second-best throughout the first 45 and, despite changes at half-time, that did not change over the remainder of the game. The Blues were clear and worthy winners, but will likely know they can expect stiffer tests in the last eight.
Afterwards, Mourinho noted (per the Daily Star):
We are there—but it's different from last season because last season was the Europa League at a different level.
To come from the Europa League to the quarter-finals of the Champions League is important for the club, important for the players.
We are a Champions League club and now we are among the best eight, the best clubs in the world, and we are there. The players deserve to be there.
14 - Samuel Eto'o is only the 14th player to reach 30 goals in the Champions League. Milestone.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 18, 2014
Drogba was the star attraction in the build-up on Tuesday, with banners dotted around Stamford Bridge paying tribute to his exploits during his eight years at the club. But his impact on the pitch over the 90 minutes that counted on the night was more muted.
Needing to score at some point during the night in order to progress, Roberto Mancini nevertheless probably wanted his side to start by concentrating on its defensive duties—but it was behind within four minutes of kick-off.
It was a disappointing goal to concede but one finished by Eto’o in typically clinical fashion, the Cameroonian marginally staying onside to receive Oscar’s deft pass before getting his shot just beneath Muslera’s despairing dive.
It was a body blow to Galatasaray so early in the game and they struggled to recover, with Drogba’s ambitious (but wild) bicycle kick their only half-chance of any note.
Chelsea, in contrast, looked composed and confident—with Eto’o and Hazard threatening to break beyond defenders at any moment as they looked for a potentially decisive second goal.
That strike did eventually come, four minutes before the break, but it was thanks to Chelsea’s two central defenders. John Terry met a corner perfectly to force a strong save from Muslera, but Cahill was on hand to lash the rebound firmly into the roof of the net.
Mancini duly changed things at half-time, dropping Melo into defence to allow Alex Telles and Emmanuel Eboue to play as wing-backs, with Wesley Sneijder given freedom to move in behind Drogba and Burak Yilmaz.
Those changes may have had a fleeting impact for a brief adjustment period, but before long Chelsea were dominating once more.
Chelsea 2-0 Galatasaray FT (3-1 agg): Shots(OT) 20(9) - 3(0), Possession 49% - 51%, Pass Accuracy 78% - 80% http://t.co/Jlh9Hv5W4I— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) March 18, 2014
The home side had plenty of second-half chances but could not trouble the scoreboard further—with Frank Lampard, Hazard, Eto'o and even substitutes Andre Schurrle and Fernando Torres all finding themselves in great goalscoring positions without being able to capitalise on them.
Fortunately, however, Galatasaray never looked like getting even one of the two goals they needed in order to grab a surprise win from the tie. There was time for one glorious late opportunity for Drogba to add a sweeter taste to his own personal experience from the match, but when Petr Cech claimed the ball to his chest, even that eventuality was extinguished.
"It was everything we wanted it to be," Lampard told ITV. "It was a tough game, we got a decent result out there and they hardly threatened.
"Didier Drogba had a chance right at the end but it was a very controlled and very professional performance from all of us."
The Blues will face tougher tests in the remainder of the competition, but will feel emboldened by the ease with which they eventually dealt with Galatasaray—a decent team, albeit one not among Europe's absolute elite.
Nevertheless, with Mourinho as manager they will be a formidable opponent for any rival in the next round—although slight concerns about the proficiency of their strike-force and steel of their midfield (especially with Nemanja Matic being cup-tied) are perhaps were they still lag behind Real Madrid (who also progressed on Tuesday) and Bayern Munich.
Chelsea return to Premier League action with a huge home game against Arsenal on Saturday. Galatasaray, meanwhile, host Kayserispor as they bid to track down Fenerbahce in the league title race.
The draw for the quarter-finals of the Champions League is on Friday, March 21.