Didier Drogba Live: Chelsea Hero Disappointing In Return To Stamford Bridge

Didier Drogba liveFinal, 2-0 Chelsea: It’s all over at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea goes through to the quarterfinals of the Champions League, eliminating Drogba and Galatasaray in the Round-of-16.

An emotional Drogba shook hands with Chelsea players after the final whistle. He then walked toward the traveling Galatasaray fans and applauded them.

It was only when he turned around and walked back to the center circle that he shared a moment with the adoring Chelsea fans. He waved to the four sides of the stadium at the halfway line before heading down the tunnel.

The pregame hype centered around Drogba, but his performance didn’t match its billing. While we shouldn’t put too much of the blame on Drogba’s shoulders — Chelsea was the heavy favorite after all — the Ivorian’s performance was as disappointing as that of his team.

Chelsea defenders contained Drogba for 90 minutes. He failed to link up with his teammates to create scoring chances and wasted the only chance that came his way.

Part of what made Drogba a Chelsea great was his ability to impose himself on defenders, but he shunned chances to muscle Terry or Cahill, preferring to move into the wide channels where he found a dogged opponent in Azpilicueta.

Galatasaray was overmatched at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, but so was Chelsea (against Bayern Munich) in the 2012 Champions League final. That day, Drogba took charge through sheer force of will, leading his team to extra-time (with a last-minute goal) and scoring the game-winning penalty kick.

However, that was two years ago, and Drogba, 36, is firmly in the twilight of his career. Drogba’s contract with Galatasaray expires after this season. He will likely play for the Ivory Coast at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but it’s anyone’s guess as to what comes next. Perhaps he’ll take his talents to Major League Soccer, as past rumors suggested. Maybe he’ll re-sign with Galatasaray for one last shot at the Champions League.

Didier Drogba and John Terry

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90th minute, 2-0 Chelsea: Drogba has his best, perhaps only, scoring chance of the game but he whiffs on his shot.

A Galatasaray teammate floated a free-kick into the area, as Drogba timed his run and got behind the defensive line. When the ball arrived, Drogba swung his leg but completely missed. He should have beaten Cech from seven yards out.

Didier Drogba

84th minute, 2-0 Chelsea: Drogba is still on the field, but it looks like he’s done fighting.

As Drogba drifted into the midfield, Azpilicueta intercepted a pass (which was not bound for the Ivorian) and raced past the former Chelsea hero, who didn’t bother chasing after him.

Azpilicueta carried it toward the Galatasaray goal, but his shot was off target.

79th minute, 2-0 Chelsea: Galatasaray has used all three substitutions, and Drogba remains on the field.

Drogba won’t get his own ceremonial standing ovation as he leaves the field.

68th minute, 2-0 Chelsea: Drogba fouls Azpilicueta, and the referee shows him a yellow card.

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The Spanish fullback beat Drogba with a dribble, and Drogba tripped him from behind.

68th minute, 2-0 Chelsea: Chelsea continues to control proceedings and look far more likely to score a third goal before its Turkish opponents score one.

Drogba’s influence remains limited to defensive duties, which he has carried out honestly so far.

55th minute, 2-0 Chelsea: Chelsea fullback Branislav Ivanovic is booked for a foul on Drogba.

55th minute, 2-0 Chelsea: The second half has opened with a whimper for Galatasaray and Drogba.

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Ever-confident Chelsea has allowed the visitors a bit more possession (compared to the first half), but the Turkish club hasn’t managed to unlock the Blues’ tight defense.

Halftime, 2-0 Chelsea: Chelsea scored early and scored late in the opening period. Sandwiched in-between those goals was a game which the hosts dominated.

That means Drogba had little, if any, impact on the first 45 minutes. His influence was limited to the defensive side of the game, as marked Chelsea’s taller players on corner kicks and pressured defenders whenever they had the ball. Drogba must do better at marking Terry, as the Chelsea captain has caused Galatasaray great danger on set pieces.

When attacking, Terry and Cahill smothered Drogba when he was in the middle, and Azpilicueta did the same when he drifted wide.

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But the onus is also on his teammates to get the ball and use it effectively. If they can’t manage to, and they haven’t so far, they must absorb Chelsea’s pressure and launch purposeful counter-attacks. Drogba can be useful in those situations, but we get the sense Terry, “Mr. Chelsea” himself, has no interest in letting Drogba steal the show at Stamford Bridge … again.

43rd minute, 2-0 Chelsea: Gary Cahill increases Chelsea’s lead just before halftime.

Terry headed Frank Lampard’s corner on goal, but Muslera turned it away. However, Cahill was there to smash home the rebound.

Chelsea now leads 3-1 on aggregate. Galatasaray needs two goals to advance to the quarterfinal.

37th minute, 1-0 Chelsea: Drogba lined up in a central position at kickoff, but circumstances are forcing him to drift to the right in order to get more touches on the ball.

But he doesn’t find himself against ageing former teammate Ashley Cole when he gets there. Instead, Cesar Azpilicueta applies quick pressure and gives him no time on the ball.

36th minute, 1-0 Chelsea: Drogba sends a free kick high and wide.

That attempt was overly ambitious.

28th minute, 1-0 Chelsea: Drogba played a nice one-two with Felipe Melo around 30 yards from the goal, but the Brazilian midfielder sliced his shot wide.

21st minute, 1-0 Chelsea: It’s becoming increasingly apparent that Drogba will have few chances to stamp his authority on the game — not that he needs many.

Galatasaray has been unable to sustain possession or create any scoring chances of note.

15th minute, 1-0 Chelsea: Drogba tries an acrobatic scissor-kick from 15 yards out, but the shot goes high and wide.

The Ivorian is still keen on entertaining the crowd at Stamford Bridge.

13th minute, 1-0 Chelsea: Drogba finally gets involved.

A cross came in from the left, and Drogba tried to head back across the face of goal but he slightly misplayed it. Chelsea regained possession.

11th minute, 1-0 Chelsea: Drogba almost gets that elusive first touch, but Terry fouls him before the ball arrives.

Fifth minute, 1-0 Chelsea: Drogba hasn’t touched the ball yet, and Chelsea has taken the lead.

After dominating posseession, Eto’o eluded his marker and fired a low shot past goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.

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Just before the goal, Galatasaray fullback Alex Telles launched a long pass toward Drogba, but Chelsea defender John Terry rose above his former teammate and headed it away.

Pregame: When the public address announcer read Galatasaray’s starting lineup, he read Drogba’s name in the middle of the pack instead of at the end — for dramatic effect.

The Stamford Bridge crowd gave Drogba a loud, but brief, cheer.

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When Cristiano Ronaldo returned to Old Trafford last season (for the first time since leaving Manchester United for Real Madrid in 2009), the announcer read his name last.

The crowd gave Ronaldo a rousing ovation, and the Portuguese superstar was almost overcome with emotion.

Drogba got no such treatment at Stamford Bridge, but he did find a moment to embrace his old friend Samuel Eto’o during the pregame handshakes.

Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto'o
2:45 p.m. ET: The reunion episode takes place at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, as Didier Drogba and Galatasaray visit Chelsea in the deciding game of their UEFA Champions League Round-of-16 series.

Drogba became one of Chelsea’s greatest-ever players during his eight-year spell (2004-2012) with the club. The Ivorian striker scored 157 goals in 341 games, helping Chelsea win 10 major trophies. In his last act as a Chelsea player, Drogba led the Blues to Champions League glory.

After failing to agree to a new contract, Drogba left Chelsea for Shanghani Shenhua that summer. Drogba’s Chinese adventure was ultimately ill-fated, and the allure of competing in the Champions League brought him to Turkey’s Galatasaray in February 2013.

Drogba helped Galatasaray reach the knockout rounds of this season’s Champions League. The draw gave him a special gift in recognition of his team’s progress: a reunion with Chelsea and the manager who first brought him to West London, Jose Mourinho.

The two teams played to a 1-1 draw in the first leg last month in Istanbul. Drogba, 36, returns to Stamford Bridge on a mission to end Chelsea’s Champions League dream and prolong his own.

Tuesday’s game kicks off at 3:45 p.m. ET. We’ll watch it live, focusing on all things Drogba. What kind of reception will Chelsea fans give him? How will he respond? Stay right here for all the action.

Have a question for Marcus Kwesi O’Mard? Send it to him via Twitter at @NESNsoccer or @mkomard, his Facebook page or NESN Soccer’s Facebook page or send it here.

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