Did Chelsea Miss A Trick In Istanbul?

A draw in Istanbul is a solid result, but it could have been so much better for Chelsea. Roberto Mancini gave Jose Mourinho a perfect opening, and they didn't take it...

Last Updated: 27/02/14 at 09:27 Post Comment

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A 1-1 draw in the away leg of a Champions League knock-out tie is not a bad result. It gives the visiting team an away goal and a solid platform from which to go through in the second leg. Half the job is done.

And yet, and yet, and yet. Chelsea could and perhaps should be returning to England with more than half the job done. They could have this tie killed off, with a leisurely second leg to look forward to in a couple of weeks. As it is, they will have to deal with a feisty Galatasaray who will believe, justifiably, that they have a sniff of getting through. Roberto Mancini even believes that his team's chances have increased from 20 to 40 per cent.

"We were disappointed at half-time we weren't more than 1-0 up," said Frank Lampard after the game, and rightly so.

Apart from those few who still think David Moyes is the right man for the job (hello Mrs Moyes, Mr Round, Sir Alex), Manchester United fans may well have gazed upon the first half of this game with the greenest of envy, as Chelsea set about an away European tie in the sort of competent manner absent on Tuesday evening.

However, while it seems relatively clear that Jose Mourinho is a more suitable United manager than the one currently in their dugout, who more often than not looks like a little boy who's lost his mum in Tesco, this game should not have provided evidence for it.

Sure, Mourinho must receive some credit for putting together a game plan to initially take advantage of Galatasaray's weakness, but only in the same way one credits a striker for slotting into an open goal. You've got to be there to score them and so forth.

In some ways it was admirable that Mancini set out to attack Chelsea, especially after the collapse of the other home teams not called Olympiakos in the first legs of this round so far. Taking a lead to Stamford Bridge was probably the only real chance Galatasaray had of repeating their extraordinary progression from the group stage, but there are ways to do these things.

And one way to do these things is not to leave a very roomy 25-yard area between defence and goalkeeper ready for anyone who cares to wander that way to exploit. Fernando Muslera is Hugo Lloris-esque in his prediliction for zipping out of goal to tidy things up at the back, but even the Uruguayan's speedy stylings were not enough to close the gaping hole at their rear. If you will. To start with a formation that offered his team the bare minimum of presence and protection in the heart of midfield also looked like, to put things mildly, an error.

As an aside, you have to admire Mancini's confidence. This week he has basically taken the credit for Manchester City's current form (incidentally, they've already scored more goals in 26 games this season than in the whole of last season) and Inter's 2010 Champions League win, achieved two years after his departure and, as Mourinho so adroitly pointed out, with half a new team. Mancini has taken a team that won the Super Lig in the last two seasons (by nine and ten points respectively) to four points behind local rivals Fenerbahce this season.

In this game however, Mancini fixed things, making substitutions after 30 and 45 minutes to tighten things up, stopping Chelsea's attacks from deep, and preventing them from controlling the ball quite so much in midfield. Yet the damage should have been done by then. Chelsea should have been a couple of goals up and with the tie in their pockets inside the first half an hour, but they didn't take advantage of the opportunity given to them by Mancini.

Even after Galatasaray's equaliser, Mourinho seemed too cautious. The introduction of John Obi Mikel was perhaps an effort to combat Mancini's midfield alterations, and was prepared before Aurelien Chedjou equalised, but was there any need to go through with it after the goal, when a more positive move might have secured a victory?

"I'm not critical of my strikers, because my strikers played a very good game," said Mourinho after the game, a hint of a grin playing upon his lips, this time fully aware that his comments were being recorded and broadcast to the world.

"The result is not amazing," he continued. Quite so Jose, but it very much could have been.

Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter

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