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English Premiership

Chelsea stroll ruins Drogba return

DROG-RETURNLONDON, March 18 – Chelsea ruined Didier Drogba’s return to Stamford Bridge as the Blues swept into the Champions League quarter-finals with a 2-0 victory over Galatasaray on Tuesday.

Jose Mourinho’s side refused to be distracted by Galatasaray striker Drogba’s emotional first appearance at Stamford Bridge since his exit in 2012 and goals from Samuel Eto’o and Gary Cahill killed the last 16, second leg clash before half-time.

The 3-1 aggregate victory booked Chelsea’s spot in Friday’s quarter-final draw and eased the sense of angst around the club following Saturday’s acrimonious 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa, which saw Mourinho and Blues midfielders Willian and Ramires all sent off.

While Drogba will cherish the out-pouring of affection which greeted him before kick-off, the Ivorian won’t look back so fondly on the match itself as Galatasaray, who had battled to a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Istanbul last month, bowed out with a barely a whimper.

Blues legend Drogba, who scored Chelsea’s winning penalty in the 2012 Champions League final against Bayern Munich, was presented with a silver boot during the warm-ups and received a tremendous reception from his former fans.

The 36-year-old made a point of seeking out Mourinho just before kick-off and planted a kiss on his old manager’s cheek.

But that was the end of Drogba’s headline act as another veteran striker seized the spotlight.

Eto’o could have been forgiven for being a little miffed when Mourinho made a jibe about his age in public recently, but if the Cameroon star’s feelings were hurt he hasn’t let it linger.

The 33-year-old has been Chelsea’s only reliable striker this season and once again proved he is still a serious force in the twilight of his career by opening the scoring in the fourth minute.

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Eden Hazard was the catalyst as the Belgian showed superb technique to control the ball and spin away from his marker before slipping a pass to Oscar on the right edge of the Galatasaray penalty area.

Oscar quickly picked out Eto’o’s run and the forward exploited the opportunity in ruthless fashion, taking one touch before driving a low shot into the far corner past Fernando Muslera’s weak attempted save.

Eto’o 10th goal of the season prompted an immediate response from Drogba, who tried an ambitious overhead kick from the edge of the area that looped well over the crossbar.

– Cahill strike kills tie –

Frank Lampard should have doubled the lead midway through the half, but the Chelsea midfielder couldn’t beat Muslera after more bewitching approach play from Hazard and Oscar.

Lampard almost made amends when he picked out John Terry with a fine in-swinging free-kick, only for the Chelsea captain to volley over from close-range.

Galatasaray had lost just one of their previous 23 games in all competitions, but Drogba was unable to make any impact and his woeful free-kick, which crashed into a banner reading ‘Drogba Legend’ high behind Petr Cech’s goal, perfectly summed up a dismal display from Roberto Mancini’s side.

And it got even worse for the Turks three minutes before half-time when Chelsea effectively ended the tie.

Terry showed more desire than his markers as he rose highest to meet a corner and powered in a header that Muslera could only parry to Cahill, who gleefully thumped into the net from close-range.

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Mancini tried to bury the hatchet with long-time rival Mourinho on Monday by claiming he would go for dinner with the Portuguese if Galatasaray won.

But Mourinho had declined the invitation and there was never any chance of Mancini making him pay for that snub as Chelsea cruised through the second half.

Willian tested Muslera with a stinging drive and the Galatasaray goalkeeper kept the scoreline respectable with good stops to deny Hazard and Fernando Torres in the closing stages.

Drogba’s frustration boiled over when he was booked for fouling Cesar Azpilicueta, but Chelsea’s fans kept singing his name until the end.

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