Chelsea made light work of what had the potential to be a tense evening with a 2-0 victory over Galatasaray at Stamford Bridge, sending them through to the Champions League quarterfinals 3-1 on aggregate.
After letting their superiority and their lead slip in Istanbul, Chelsea had to be on their guard especially given the blow of a defeat to Aston Villa at the weekend. Meanwhile, there was also the specter of Didier Drogba making his first return to Stamford Bridge. Instead, any trepidation that existed was largely dispelled inside the opening five minutes when Samuel Eto’o put the hosts in front after good work from the impressive Eden Hazard and Oscar. When Gary Cahill then thumped home from close range, following a corner three minutes before half-time, the result was effectively sealed. A blunt Galatasaray side had never looked capable of getting one goal, never mind the two they now required.
Chelsea, who had played within themselves from the off knowing it was their opponents who needed to score, played out the second half in total comfort. Up until a fluffed chance in injury time, the most memorable moment of Drogba’s night came when he smashed a free-kick high the stands and right onto a banner that read “Drogba Legend.” Legend he is, but on this night he was no threat to ending Chelsea’s hopes to win a trophy that he so inspiringly delivered to them two years ago. As raucous as their large contingent of fans were at the Bridge, Galatasaray’s players failed to make any noise on the pitch and made it a welcome confidence boosting evening for Chelsea ahead of their crucial Premier League showdown with Arsenal on Saturday.
If Chelsea are to claim glory in the Premier League or the Champions League this season then they are likely to need to get some goals from their trio of strikers. Eto’o did his bit in just the fourth minute to get his third goal in four Champions League starts and send his side on their way to victory.
Hazard’s lovely turn from a throw in made the goal as he opened up space before playing Oscar through down the right. The Brazilian’s pass went through the legs of a defender and found Eto’o in the middle and the forward’s shot took a slight deflection off the boot of Aurelien Chedjou to go in off a despairing hand of goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.
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The emphasis was now firmly on Galatasaray to take the initiative but they had little to threaten a well-drilled Chelsea side. An abundance of free-kicks prevented any kind of flow in what was a scrappy and forgettable encounter. But Jose Mourinho will have little concern about that and his side always looked like having too much for their Turkish opponents.
Galatasaray’s poor defending from set-pieces had already been exposed when John Terry volleyed over Frank Lampard’s free-kick. There was to be no reprieve minutes later. This time from Lampard’s corner, Terry rose above Drogba, who was left defending against two men, and, although the Chelsea captain’s header was repelled by Muslera, Cahill was on hand to slam the ball high into the net.
Roberto Mancini switched to a 3-5-2 at the break, with Felipe Melo dropping into the defense and Wesley Sniejder moving into the middle. But the visitors remained utterly impotent. Indeed, it was Chelsea who looked more likely to get the next goal. Hazard’s superb display, in which he terrorized Emmanuel Eboue throughout, arguably warranted a goal, but his best effort was turned wide by Muslera.
Perhaps the best finish to the night for all concerned would have been a consolation goal for Drogba, but the Ivorian missed his cue on the volley from six yards out.