Chelsea ruined Didier Drogba’s return to Stamford Bridge as the Blues swept into the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals with a 2-0 victory over Galatasaray on Tuesday.
Jose Mourinho’s side refused to be distracted by Galatasaray striker Drogba’s emotional first appearance at the Bridge since his exit in 2012 as goals from Samuel Eto’o and Gary Cahill killed the round-of-16, second-leg clash before halftime.
The 3-1 aggregate victory booked Chelsea’s spot in tomorrow’s quarter-final draw and eased the sense of angst around the club following Saturday’s acrimonious 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa, which saw Mourinho and Blues midfielders Willian and Ramires all sent off.
“Last season, when Chelsea won the Europa League, it was a different level,” Mourinho said. “Now we are amongst the last eight in the Champions League, the best teams in the world. That is important for the club. The players deserve to be there.”
“The game was difficult and then to concede after four minutes made it more difficult, but that doesn’t change the fact we played this game badly,” Galatasaray manager Roberto Mancini said.
While Drogba will cherish the outpouring of affection that greeted him before kickoff, the Ivorian will not look back so fondly on the match itself as Galatasaray, who had battled to a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Istanbul last month, bowed out with a barely a whimper.
Blues legend Drogba made a point of seeking out Mourinho just before kickoff and planted a kiss on his old manager’s cheek, but that was the end of Drogba’s headline act as another veteran striker seized the spotlight.
Eto’o could have been forgiven for being a little miffed when Mourinho made a jibe about his age in public recently, but if the Cameroon star’s feelings were hurt he has not let it linger. The 33-year-old has been Chelsea’s only reliable striker this season and once again proved he is still a serious force in the twilight of his career by opening the scoring in the fourth minute.
Eden Hazard was the catalyst as the Belgian showed superb technique to control the ball and spin away from his marker, before slipping a pass to Oscar on the right edge of the Galatasaray penalty area.
Oscar quickly picked out Eto’o’s run and the forward exploited the opportunity in ruthless fashion, taking one touch before driving a low shot into the far corner past Fernando Muslera’s weak attempted save.
Eto’o 10th goal of the season prompted an immediate response from Drogba, who tried an ambitious overhead-kick from the edge of the penalty area that looped well over the crossbar.
Frank Lampard should have doubled the lead midway through the half, but the Chelsea midfielder could not beat Muslera after more bewitching approach play from Hazard and Oscar.
Lampard almost made amends when he picked out John Terry with a fine in-swinging free-kick, only for the Chelsea captain to volley over from close range.
Galatasaray had lost just one of their previous 23 games in all competitions, but Drogba was unable to make any impact and his woeful free-kick, which crashed into a banner reading “Drogba Legend” high behind Petr Cech’s goal, perfectly summed up a dismal display from Mancini’s side.
It got even worse for the Turkish side three minutes before halftime, when Chelsea effectively ended the tie. Terry showed more desire than his markers as he rose highest to meet a corner and powered in a header that Muslera could only parry to Cahill, who gleefully thumped into the net from close range.