Glenn Moore: Drogba wakes up to rouse Blues

It had been done in a Champions League quarter-final. This year. It was, admittedly, in the Concacaf version rather than Uefa's, but Santos Laguna faced an even greater task in Montreal last month than Liverpool did against Chelsea, being 4-1 down to the Impact on aggregate at half-time in the second leg. The Mexicans scored four times in the second period to progress. Only a tin-pot competition? There were more than 55,000 in Montreal's Olympic Stadium for the first leg, 12,000 more than were at Stamford Bridge last night.

It is unlikely that "remember Santos Laguna" was the rallying cry as Liverpool left the dressing room last night but it showed what can happen. But, surely not, not against a team as experienced as Chelsea, with Guus Hiddink as manager. And especially not with Steven Gerrard sat in the posh seats of the East Stand.

In the (not much) cheaper seats in the corner of Stamford Bridge housing the travelling support was a wall of red banners, many proclaiming "Justice for the 96" in recognition of today's 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy, and the inability of South Yorkshire Police to confront their failings. But over the Liverpool bench it seemed a white flag had been raised by Gerrard's omission. That the critical role of Fernando Torres' provider had been handed to Lucas hardly inspired confidence. The resting of Albert Riera seemed only to confirm the Premier League title is Rafael Benitez's priority.

Chelsea were without John Terry, who was suspended, but he is not the player of a couple of seasons ago, and otherwise had what appeared a formidable spine at full strength: Petr Cech, Ricardo Carvalho, Michael Essien and Didier Drogba. For too long that spine seemed to have developed a structural fault. Cech was horribly out of sorts; the grievous error which allowed Fabio Aurelio's goal was the first of a series of mistakes which betrayed his fragile confidence. Carvalho was as panicky as anyone in the first half. Essien, the key player in the first leg through his subjugation of Gerrard, seemed unsure of his role in the latter's absence. Liverpool had 59 per cent of first-half possession, mainly because Chelsea kept giving it away, and the manner in which they hacked the ball to all parts was a reminder that Essien, for all his energetic qualities, is no Claude Makelele. The Frenchman, ever available to receive a pass, play it short and take a return, would have calmed Chelsea down and interrupted Liverpool's flow.

And then there was Drogba. Prior to the match Chelsea TV had been showing a rerun of last year's semi-final. There was Andrei Shevchenko running down time by the corner flag, and Avram Grant, the then manager, falling to his knees at the final whistle. It seemed an age ago. Chelsea are seeking their third manager post-Grant, Sheva is warming a different bench. But there are some constants. Under Hiddink, Drogba has seemed to be back to doing what he does best (besides sulking, pouting and falling over): monstering defenders. Liverpool's have been particular victims over the seasons but for a long time last night it seemed Drogba had called a truce. In the opening minutes he went down in apparent season-ending agony after a mild challenge from Jamie Carragher.

This usually means an evening of histrionics is in prospect but for a long time Drogba was simply a bystander. Just occasionally he showed a flicker of involvement, notably a wonderful chest control-and-volleyed pass to Nicolas Anelka.

Five minutes after the break – what did Hiddink say to him in the dressing room? – Drogba came alive. Having seen Anelka breaking down the right he sprinted forward and, as the cross came in, edged that crucial half-yard ahead of Martin Skrtel. Drogba's outstretched boot made the faintest of touches, but it was enough to wrong-foot the goalkeeper Pepe Reina and transform the tie.

Thereafter Drogba was a beast. It was he who was fouled by Carragher for the free-kick which Alex lashed in. Eleven minutes later he brushed Carragher aside before setting up Michael Ballack, who should have settled the tie. Reina saved but, undeterred, Drogba again opted to pass when many would have shot as Ballack sent him clear in the 76th minute. This time the indefatigable Frank Lampard scored and Chelsea were through, just.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Reimagined: Gwyneth Paltrow and Toni Collette in the film adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma
books
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
Cannes 2015Dheepan, film review
Sport
sport
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine