Chelsea 2 Galatasaray 0: Five things we learnt, including Eden Hazard is now the man and while Drogba may be a legend - his legs have gone
The Blues eased to victory to progress to the Champions League quarter-finals
Wednesday 19 March 2014
Forget about Sneijder – Hazard’s the man now
These games – even more than the World Cup – are the highest stage for footballers, when the very best prove themselves against one another. This was only Eden Hazard’s second Champions League knock-out game but he made it immediately obvious that he is among the very top bracket of players.
Hazard was dangerous every time he touched the ball last night. Galatasaray had no idea whatsoever about how to stop him. He skipped past nearly every opponent he faced – including Felipe Melo, to make the first goal, after four minutes. He drew clumsy fouls from Emmanuel Eboué and Yekta Kurtulus. Facing Wesley Sneijder in the opening minutes, he put the ball through his legs, making the Dutch veteran look like yesterday’s man. Hazard is the star now.
Mancini still to make his mark on Champions League
Roberto Mancini will have to wait another year – at the very least – to make his first serious impression on the Champions League. For all his domestic successes, he remains a stranger to the most serious rounds of the European Cup.
At Internazionale, he went out twice in the last 16 and twice in the quarter-finals. At Manchester City, he never got out of the group stage. His Galatasaray team never looked much like reaching the last eight and did not even have the basic Mancini quality of defensive solidity. That, and his will to win, were his traditional strengths. Jose Mourinho has reached the semi-finals of this competition a remarkable seven times. Mancini has not managed it once.
Read more: Five things we learnt from Stamford Bridge
Mancini apologises to supporters after loss
Without Drogba, Mourinho has different aims
Mourinho turns attention to Arsenal
Drogba maybe a legend but his legs have gone
Mourinho said on Monday that Didier Drogba could return to Stamford Bridge as a “player, a coach or an ambassador”, but the first of those three scenarios did not look particularly likely this evening.
Drogba received the reception everyone expected. He was celebrated when the teams were read out, when he came out to warm up and when he received a commemorative silver boot from Ron Gourlay just before kick-off. But those were his highlights.
His first attacking involvement was to be offside from a Sneijder pass, his next to hit an acrobatic volley well over the bar. When he had a free-kick 25 yards from goal, he managed to pick out the ‘Drogba Legend’ banner hanging from the Matthew Harding Upper. The sense of theatre remains, but the sharpness looked gone.
Eto’o wins battle of the African goal machines
Samuel Eto’o and Drogba went head-to-head here four years ago, and the Cameroonian’s goal for Internazionale sent them through to the quarter-finals, on their way to the trophy.
Since then, Eto’o and Ivorian Drogba have continued to flourish, the two most successful African strikers in the history of the European Cup, with more than 30 goals each. But Eto’o, now the Chelsea man, looked likelier last night to extend that record. He again showed his big-game nous, as he has recently against Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United. Eto’o put Chelsea ahead after a sharp dart in behind, and was far more dangerous than Drogba. Sneijder played for that Inter team too and last night gave the impression he desperately missed that incisive speed in behind, the runs he loved to find. He is not the player he was then, but he is not finished either.
After an easy night for the defence, the big guns await
Chelsea’s defence was so desperately untested that their centre-back’s main contributions were in Galatasaray’s penalty area.
Gary Cahill scored the second goal – not that Chelsea need it – after John Terry’s header, after the captain had nearly turned in Frank Lampard’s whipped free-kick earlier on. They are the heart of Mourinho’s chosen back five, by far the best defence in the country. But they will have harsher tests ahead. Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich are among the quarter-finalists – the draw of which is on Friday – and only then will we see if they retained the old steel and control against the very best European football has to offer. Tonight’s opponents provided no real test of that.
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