Well, that was just dreadful. Chelsea went to the pit of Hades — a.k.a. Istanbul — to play the best Turkey could throw into the Champions League. It ended in a 1-1 draw and was possibly the worst second half of a football match in the Round of 16 this year.
Chelsea started fast. The Blues defended incredibly well at the back and passed beautifully into the remarkable amounts of space left by the Galatasaray midfield and perennial disappointment, Emmanuel Eboue. The comically horrid positioning of Eboue was bad, very bad. Chelsea won the ball in the midfield thanks to some typically poor Gala passing, and a streaking Cesar Azpilicueta was found in space on the left flank — Eboue’s area. He played the square ball to Fernando Torres and the Spanish forward did the rest, calmly slotting the ball past two sliding defenders. The Turk defense was in shambles, Chelsea could have killed it then and there.
But, like a typical Chelsea squad with a 1-0 lead, they said, “job well done,” dusted off their hands and sat back and invited pressure. The Blues allowed the hosts so much time on the ball that Gala began to look like a real side. Yet, Chelsea still looked comfortable and a frustrated Gala team walked into the tunnel for half time. Gala manager Roberto Mancini will be given credit for his first-half tactical substitution, but it really did nothing as Chelsea had already sat back.
While Real Madrid were doing what superior sides are supposed to — beating their opponents without mercy — Chelsea and the abominable referee were giving Gala every chance possible to get back into the game. And they did. An undaunting Wesley Sneijer corner curled into Petr Cech‘s six yard box, but the keeper was caught in and decided to do nothing instead of anything. The ball fell untouched into the six yard area and was poked home by defender Aurelien Chedjou, the only player on the Gala back line who wasn’t worthless.
The crowd, subsequently, went wild. Speaking of the crowd, it was quite tame compared to what was expected from a stadium supposedly so tough to play at — if you can get there without being stabbed, of course. Apart from a few strange hissing sounds aimed at players during fouls, Chelsea kept the crowd out of it for much of the match. Football I.Q. is apparently not that big in Turkey.
The rest of the match deteriorated into a punt-and-chase snoozer, where nobody seemed dangerous in possession, and everyone looked apathetic. I may be the only one who believes 1-1 wasn’t a good result. Then again, maybe others remember the first half as well.
All in all, what looked so promising to start ended up being a huge disappointment orchestrated by a spineless referee who passed out cards at the whim of the crowd. One would half expect Russell Crowe to appear, yelling, “Are you not entertained?”
In reality, Chelsea will take a crucial away goal back to Stamford Bridge for the second leg, which is set for the 18th of March. Hopefully, Jose Mourinho will kill that game off in the next match and book Chelsea’s ticket to the Round of Eight.
Oh yeah, the reunion with Didier Drogba was pretty cool, too.