Champions League Diary 27.02.14
Chelsea were the only remaining English team in the competition yet to play in the first knockout round prior to yesterday evening however Jose Mourinho’s men managed to get what at the moment looks like a very good result in Istanbul. Real Madrid travelled to Gelsenkirchen to face Schalke and ran out comfortable winners with the forward three of Benzema, Ronaldo and Bale all in fantastic form.
Despite being right in the midst of political unrest around Taksim Square as well as being given advice not to use the area’s public transport, Chelsea supporters had an evening to remember as Mourinho guided the Blues to a 1-1 draw in Istanbul with Fernando Torres scoring the all important away goal. In truth by half time the game should have been out of sight with Galatasaray setting up with a suicidal backline. Jose Mourinho alluded to an expectation of space in behind through his selection of Torres but I doubt even he could have predicted the sheer ease with which Chelsea would be able to set up counter attacks against a weak in number defensive line.
Galatasaray were looking to utilise attacking wing-backs however the two wing-backs on either side, Eboue and Telles were too far forward when the Galatasaray defensive pairing had the ball. It was clear Mancini had instructed his players to try and retain possession of the ball, as such Muslera played the ball out to the centre halves when possible, in addition to this the former Manchester City coach had also encouraged his defenders to push high up the pitch in an ambitious system to try and catch Chelsea in an offside trap.
As a result we saw Chedjou and Balta receive the ball from Muslera and when they turned to try and move the ball to either Eboue or Telles, the wing-back pairing were in Chelsea’s half making a pass to them impossible. We would then see the Galatasaray defensive pairing try and loft a pass out of defence into midfield only for it to be cut out and Chelsea have a chance for a three or even four against two scenario.
Young attacking midfielder Izet Hajrovic was withdrawn on the half hour as Mancini reverted to a 4-5-1 system to steady the ship. It was this tactical decision which incidentally changed the course of the match, following this point the hosts looked much more solid at the back, even more so when Semih Kaya was introduced after the break and this allowed the Turkish Champions to try and get an equaliser with Drogba and Sneijder being brought into play with greater regularity.
Jose Mourinho himself did not push his side to seek the second goal, 0-1 was looking to be a great result in comparison to the matches involving English teams already played in this round however Chelsea’s option to hold their lead would eventually get the better of them with the hosts putting significantly more pressure on their midfield as the second half wore on.
The pressure told when Galatasaray equalised through Chedjou after sixty four minutes, a poorly defended corner allowed the defender to get free just in front of Petr Cech and steer the ball home. John Terry’s marking left a lot to be desired in that instance with the experience defender appearing to lose Chedjou whilst tracking the flight of the ball.
With the score now 1-1 it was the hosts who were relentless in their search for a winning goal with Chelsea introducing John Obi Mikel in the middle of midfield to secure the score draw. Galatasaray lacked a bit of bite in the final third in the last twenty minutes which maybe would have taken them over the line however the fact remains that Selcuk Inan had a great chance near the end of the match when the Turkish midfielder hit the post when he had an open goal to aim at.
Jose Mourinho will undoubtedly be happy with coming away from such a difficult away trip with a 1-1 draw however the Portuguese coach recognised in his post-match interview that the tie could have been put out of sight in the opening exchanges when Mancini’s side were on the ropes defensively but for a lack of ‘cutting edge.’ Mourinho went on to say, “Some other teams have three chances and score three goals. We have five and score one, we create but when we arrive in the final third of the pitch, the correct pass and right movement is something we don’t have.” The Chelsea boss was quick to point out he was not criticising his strikers after the furore created by his recorded comments regarding the age of Samuel Eto’o and his other striker’s inability to be consistent, “That’s not a critique of the strikers but it’s the profile of the team we have.”
Elsewhere in the Champions League last night Real Madrid were in action as Carlo Ancelotti’s side began their quest to secure the club’s tenth European Cup at the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen with Jens Keller’s Schalke team the opponents. Jens Keller’s suggestion that the club “would need a miracle” to get a result last night turned out to be not far from the truth as a rampant Real Madrid ran out 6-1 winners.
There were two goals each for Benzema, Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo and Schalke’s shaky backline simply could not deal with the onslaught. Bale’s second goal was a fantastic display of quick feet and nous to weave in and out of a group of Schalke defenders before firing past Fährmann in the German’s goal. This looked for all the world to be the goal of the evening only for Cristiano Ronaldo to step up in a similar display of fleet footedness, leaving Joel Matic swinging his leg at thing air as Ronaldo breezed past him with a triple step-over before powering the ball into the far corner to make the score 3-0.
With the score at 6-0 many of the Schalke fans had left the ground however the ones who remained in their seats witness Klaas Jan Huntelaar’s excellent strike against his old club, bringing to an end Iker Casillas’ run of over nine hundred minutes without conceding a goal.
Real Madrid will be the first to admit they endured a difficult start to the season, adjusting to life without Mesut Ozil, Gareth Bale was struggling with fitness after having virtually no pre-season and the new manager Carlo Ancelotti had to wait before his methods began to show progress at the Bernabeu. Since the winter break it all seems to be coming together for Los Blancos with Ancelotti’s team top of La Liga and already in the quarter-finals of the Champions League in all but name. The work rate Ancelotti is seeking from his wide players in terms of tracking back is also extremely helpful as it stops the Madrid defence ever coming under sustained pressure against most teams and with Luka Modric coming into to his own at Madrid as one of the best tempo dictators of a match in the world, Madrid can control matches with ease.
With the second legs in three weeks time it would be a surprise if Chelsea do not go through but with the firepower of Drogba always a threat it could well be the case that Mourinho lives to regret the many missed chances in the mad opening half hour in Istanbul last night.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4