At the end of the day, a scoring draw away from home is a pretty good result in the opening match of a two-legged Champions League tie. For a Chelsea side that's been notoriously difficult to score against, playing the second leg at home knowing that a clean sheet or any victory sends them through should leave the fans feeling relatively comfortable. Unfortunately though, this game was there for the taking if Chelsea had been a bit less sloppy in their play.
Sloppiness wasn't something unique to the on-field product from Chelsea in this one, as the pitch, the linesman, and the referee all had awful days on Wednesday. We saw quite a fews slips and falls in the Istanbul mud, the linesman wrongly blew two clear cut opportunities on the counter dead, and the ref was far too free with his yellows*, while killing off counter after counter by not playing the advantage.
*Somehow, Felipe Melo still escaped going into the book
The game started well enough, even before it kicked off. After being hugged by every member of the Chelsea starting lineup, Didier Drogba delayed the start to walk over and acknowledge the Chelsea traveling fans. I'm sure that will be nothing compared to the ovation he'll get in London.
The Turkish side were remarkably open to start the game, and Chelsea looked like they'd end up cutting through the hosts with relative ease all night. Willian thought he'd been gifted an opening goal by Fernando Muslera, but the keeper managed to get just enough of his head to the ball to send the Brazilian's chip wide of the target. Minutes later, some laughable play by the Gala defense set Cesar Azpilicueta free on the
Argentine Uruguayan keeper, and after he came miles out of his net to deal with the danger, Azpi simply rolled the ball into the path of Fernando Torres. One smart finish later, the Blues had their away goal.
The 20 minutes that followed saw Chelsea come awfully close to getting behind the Gala defense several times, so much so that Roberto Mancini was forced to take off an attacker in order to shore up the defense. That move barely slowed the Chelsea onslaught though, with the Blues still looking far more likely to double the lead than they were to concede an equalizer.
Gala made a second change at the break, bringing on Semih Kaya in place of Hakan Balta. Balta had been getting abused by Fernando Torres all game, and Mancini was clearly worried about this one getting out of hand before his squad even left for London. The second half started much as the first had ended, with Eden Hazard picking out Fernando Torres who had a great chance to double the lead. Muslera proved up to the task this time, however, and the lead remained at 1-0.
Ten minutes into the second half, the game quickly ground to a halt. Chelsea began to sit back a bit more, focusing on closing up shop and hitting on the counter. At this point, the referee changed course from his first half tendencies, issuing four yellow cards in a span of four minutes and whistling play dead even when there was a clear advantage to be played. The Blues seemed rattled by the sudden change in flow, and Gala found their first real foothold in the game.
Chelsea escaped conceding just after the hour mark, when Selcuk Inan couldn't direct Didier Drogba's header into the open corner of the Chelsea net. Just minutes later, however, a Petr Cech error allowed Aurelien Chedjou to level the score at 1-1.
Jose Mourinho made a pair of changes, bringing John Obi Mikel on for Andre Schurrle and Samuel Eto'o on in place of Torres. Chelsea continued to struggle to re-establish a foothold however, failing to connect with too many passes that would have set an attacker free on goal.
By the end of the contest, both sides seemed fairly content to simply head to London with a draw. Chelsea will still be favorites to advance, but Galatasaray will surely be pleased that they're still in this tie with a shout. We'll still have it all to play for on March 18.
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