Champions League: Blues are cream of the crop

ROUND OF 16, SECOND LEG

CHELSEA 2 (Samuel Eto'o 4, Gary Cahill 42), GALATASARAY 0

Chelsea win 3-1 on aggregate.

With minimal fuss, Chelsea booked their place in the last eight of the Champions League on Wednesday morning (Singapore time).

The Blues will be joined in the quarter-final draw tomorrow by Manchester United, who overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit against Olympiakos with a 3-0 second-leg win at Old Trafford this morning to progress 3-2 on aggregate.

Galatasaray, so lively in their own stadium in the first leg, offered minimal resistance. This was a not a night for racing hearts and sweaty palms. Not that this bothered Jose Mourinho.

"We are there, but it is different from last season," he said.

"That was the Europa League and a different level... now we are among the best clubs in the world."

Mourinho had said before the game that he wouldn't have dinner with Galatasaray coach Roberto Mancini, claiming that the only thing they share in common is their occupation.

CLINICAL

Their teams certainly shared little in common here. Chelsea were clinical, composed and organised. Galatasaray were timid, careless and weak.

The much-heralded return of Didier Drogba to Stamford Bridge brought a rousing reception and a pre-match kiss from Mourinho, but there was little chance that the Ivorian was in town to haunt his old team. This was the dampest of squibs.

In truth, the tie was all but over by the fourth minute when Samuel Eto'o fired home from a tight angle - his shot touched, but not stopped, by goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.

Any belief that the Galatasaray side had brought with them big hopes simply evaporated.

A powerful Gary Cahill blast after Muslera had blocked, but not stopped, John Terry's header sealed the result.

It would have taken the half-time team talk of a lifetime to inspire Galatasaray to go out and score twice in the second half.

More goals could easily have followed in the second half, but Chelsea found Muslera in defiant form. England supporters take note.

He will almost certainly be doing the same for Uruguay in the summer.

If Drogba was concerned that his efforts might somehow tarnish Chelsea supporters' feelings towards him, there was no need. Galatasaray's almost complete lack of threat meant that the closest he came to scoring was when he unleashed a piledriver and hit a banner with his name on it in the upper tier.

A booking for a tangle with Cesar Azpilicueta came in the second half, before a last-minute airshot in the six-yard box capped off a disappointing night.

His place as Chelsea's greatest-ever player, not to mention his place in the hearts of all Blues' fans, remains secure. If he returns to the club, as he may do this summer, it would be better for him to come as a coach, rather than a player.

It was the other African legend, Eto'o, who enjoyed the limelight. While Eto'o's best days are obviously behind him, whether you believe him to be 32 or 35, he still has something to offer.

EXPERIENCE

Though he no longer has the spark of pace to carry him past defenders, he still has the experience and know-how to cause problems.

Much of his link play has gone unnoticed in his short time in England and he is very rarely praised for his exceptional sense of positioning. Eto'o is a smart operator, even if he isn't a particularly quick one.

Mourinho was quick to look ahead, and given how unexciting this game was, one can hardly blame him.

"All the big candidates to win the competition are there (in the quarter-finals)," he said.

"We would welcome any one of them. It would be very good for our evolution as a team and very important for us to play one of the best. We wait for the draw. It does not matter who."

Chelsea - cold, ruthless, uncompromising Chelsea - are back in the big time.

CREATIVE FORCE EDEN HAZARD'S MATCH STATS

Touches: 87

Pass accuracy: 88 per cent

Total dribbles: 9

Total shots: 2

npsports@sph.com.sg


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