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Wasteful Chelsea draw in Istanbul


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Fernando Torres netted a priceless away goal as Chelsea were frustratingly held in Istanbul by Galatasaray.

The Turkish giants, with former Blues striker Didier Drogba at the helm, were indebted to their Cameroonian centre-back Aurelien Chedjou as he converted the home side's best opportunity to level the scores - but that came only after a wasteful Chelsea side had spurned the opportunity to kill the tie off.

After Torres slotted home from Cesar Azpilicueta's pull back in the ninth minute, the visitors had succeeded in not only silencing the vociferous home support but also deflating Roberto Mancini's men to such an extent that the Blues really ought to have capitalised on their supremacy.

Instead they were left to rue their own lethargy as Chedjou's equaliser earned the Turkish side a point their spirited second half fight-back warranted - though Chelsea boss José Mourinho will be content in the knowledge that a clean sheet for Petr Cech in the second leg at Stamford Bridge in three weeks' time will see his side through.

Mourinho will have surprised few with his team selection, with the sole changes from the last-gasp weekend win over Everton seeing the cup-tied Nemanja Matic made way for Ramires, whilst Andre Schurrle came in for Oscar and Torres was preferred up front to Samuel Eto'o.

And that selection seemed to be an inspired one for Mourinho as two of those changes in personnel combined to give the Blues the perfect start inside nine minutes.

Winning the ball deep in his own half, Cesar Azpilicueta fed the ball to Eden Hazard, whose intelligent interchange with Schurrle allowed the marauding full-back the opportunity to run in behind the hosts' exposed backline. Schurrle duly picked the Spaniard out with a precise pass, allowing the former Marseille man to square the ball to the unmarked Torres, who stroked home confidently.

It was a goal the Chelsea striker would have dreamed of - with the pre-match build up surrounding Drogba's first game against the club he enjoyed so much success with, the opportunity for Torres to steal the limelight will have offered some consolation to the Spaniard for the 18 months he spent in Drogba's considerable shadow at Stamford Bridge.

Such was Chelsea's early dominance that that goal should have been the Blues' second of the night, with Willian first almost lobbing home goalkeeper Fernando Muslera after the Uruguayan's poor clearance - only for Muslera to fortunately divert the ball wide with his head.

Another opportunity went begging as Chedjou dispossessed Hazard after one of Chelsea's trademark counter-attacks, whilst the bounce of the ball from Schurrle's wicked delivery from out wide was all that stopped the rampaging Ramires from doubling the lead, as he failed to properly connect with a volley from sixteen yards.

At the opposite end, Cech was tested for the first time as he diverted Yekta Kurtulus' drive wide of the goal. Chelsea ended the half as they began it - in attacking fashion - and Hazard was very close to playing in Azpilicueta as the Blues looked to capitalise on a lackadaisical defensive showing by the home team.

Whatever Roberto Mancini said to his players at half time seemed to have inspired his team, who emerged with considerably renewed vigour, but it was the Blues who looked the more threatening side once again. Muslera made a fine sprawling save to deny Torres from netting a goal that would have been reminiscent to his strike in last year's Europa League final against Benfica mere minutes into the half.

That warning shot was all it took for the home side to rally, and they almost broke Chelsea's gritty backline when Selcuk Inan hit the base of the post from Drogba's glancing header. The home side were not to be denied, however, and less than a minute later Chedjou had arrived unopposed to volley past an exposed Cech to restore parity.

The equaliser seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Blues. While the goal was perhaps what the hosts deserved for their much improved showing after the interval, Chelsea had always looked relatively comfortable. With the scores now level, though, the Blues were unable to replicate the intensity of passing which had seen them pose a threat early on.

That meant that both sides, seemingly willing to accept the draw as the game progressed towards an unremarkable conclusion, dropped the tempo a little. The sole moment of concern for Mourinho saw Cech make an excellent save from Alex Telles' vicious effort from the edge of the box.

The full-time whistle was sounded, with Mourinho looking relatively pleased with his team's performance and, more importantly, a positive result. Chelsea become the first English side to avoid defeat in this season's Champions League knockout rounds, whilst Torres' early opener is the first goal scored in six games by British teams in UEFA competitions in 2014.

Chelsea are a shut-out away from the competition's quarter finals, but there will no doubt be a bitter taste left over after this match - this was, make no mistake, something of a wasted opportunity for the Blues to kill the tie off with a game to spare.

The draw does, at least, mean the Blues are in a strong position to qualify. With the three other English teams in the Champions League all 0-2 down on aggregate heading into their respective second legs, and both Tottenham and Swansea having work to do to progress in UEFA's junior tournament, Chelsea may well be, for the third successive season, English football's only representatives in European competition by this time next month.

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