Galatasaray 1 Chelsea 1: Fernando Torres experiences another night of heaven and hell
Striker opened the scoring early on but there could and should have been so much more to celebrate
Turk Telecom Arena
Thursday 27 February 2014
In many shops that sell Galatasaray merchandise across the sprawling city of Istanbul, people are able to buy various tops with the proud slogan “welcome to hell” emblazoned across the front.
For Galatasaray supporters such a phrase has become a badge of honour, but for the past three years it has been the best way to describe many of Fernando Torres’ experiences in a Chelsea shirt.
Everyone in the country is familiar with the sad tale of the striker who was so lethal at Liverpool and has been mostly timid since a British record £50m move to Stamford Bridge in 2011.
Any rare flash of form has prompted optimistic talk of a revival, only for injury or loss of confidence to soon silence it. One person who has refused to remain quiet about this Spanish enigma has been his manager, Jose Mourinho.
All the build-up to this last 16 tie was solely focused on the prospect of Didier Drogba facing his former club, until Mourinho’s private complaints over “having no strikers” were leaked by a French television station.
Given the club’s obvious pursuit of a high calibre forward for the summer, with Diego Costa, Radamel Falcao and Edinson Cavani all admired, it would have been understandable if the outburst was poorly received by Torres, even if he was picked ahead of Samuel Eto’o.
It was certainly not the ideal way to instil a forward with self-belief before a game where he was coming up against Drogba, a former team-mate who appeared to cast a long shadow over him until departing Chelsea two years ago after winning them the Champions League.
Any forward would find it hard to measure up to Drogba’s 157 goals in eight seasons, and strikes in nine out of nine cup finals. In contrast, before a ball was kicked here, Torres was still on a measly 43.
Speculation continues whether he will even see out the remaining couple of seasons on his contract, but more displays of this character may just convince Mourinho he is worth keeping. It seemed appropriate that he would end the Premier League’s drought in European football this calendar year in the same minute as the number on the back of his shirt – nine.
One area where he has often surprisingly struggled has been to be in the right place at the right time and show composure in front of goal. Yet the manner in which he found space in the area to exploit Chelsea’s fast counter attack and convert Cesar Azpilicueta’s measured ball was impressive.
There is something about competing on the continent that makes Torres look more like the player of old. Indeed, this was his 13th strike in the last 17 games in Champions League, Europa League and Uefa Super Cup. That’s a record even Drogba at his best would be proud of.
It wasn’t just his goal that would have made the demanding Mourinho happy. Torres covered a lot of ground at both ends of the pitch, winning headers in his own area at set pieces as well as in the final third as Chelsea had the better of the opening 45 minutes.
But in keeping with the pattern of his Chelsea career, where a low so often follows a high, he missed a golden opportunity seven minutes after the break which would have surely put the tie out of reach before Galatasaray’s stirring fightback.
Eden Hazard sent him in on goal with a sublime through ball, but he hesitated too long and ended up hitting a tame shot which Fernando Muslera tipped wide.
He was clearly exhausted by now, and Mourinho replaced him with Eto’o for the final quarter. This was one of his better evenings but there could and should have been so much more to celebrate. Déjà vu strikes again.
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