The Blues go into the return leg in a strong position despite having to settle for a 1-1 draw in the Turk Telekom Arena, after Fernando Torres’s early opener was cancelled out by Aurelien Chedjou’s leveller midway through the second half.
Jose Mourinho’s side dominated the first half and should have had more than just a one-goal advantage to show for our efforts at the break, which had come when Torres finished from close range following excellent build-up play between Andre Schurrle and Cesar Azpilicueta.
It was the Spanish striker’s third goal in this season’s competition, and he was unfortunate not to double his tally shortly after the break when he was denied by a smart stop from Fernando Muslera.
Galatasaray will feel their second-half improvement merited an equaliser, and though we go into the second leg all-square, the Blues, having scored a crucial away goal, will be confident of securing our progression.
Mourinho made three changes to the side which secured a late win against Everton at the weekend. In midfield, Ramires came in for the ineligible Nemanja Matic, with John Mikel Obi starting on the bench. Schurrle was handed a first start since our FA Cup win over Stoke City in January, with Oscar dropping down to the bench, and Torres was chosen to lead the line.
Didier Drogba started against the Blues for the first time since leaving the club in 2012, the Ivorian operating as a lone striker. Other familiar names in the Galatasaray starting line-up included Felipe Melo, Wesley Sneijder and former Arsenal defender Emmanuel Eboue.
Much of the pre-match build-up was dominated by Drogba facing the club he served so impressively over the course of eight years and, after greeting every member of the Blues’ starting eleven with a warm embrace, he made a conscious effort to walk across to the far corner and acknowledge the travelling Chelsea supporters high up in the corner of the stand.
With the pleasantries completed, however, it was down to business, and it was the hosts who threatened first. Drogba picked the ball up deep inside Chelsea territory and his pass found Burak Yilmaz who had managed to get in behind Gary Cahill, but fortunately for the Blues he scuffed the cross, allowing us to clear.
Melo was lucky to escape caution after clattering through the back of Wilian moments later, but from Lampard’s subsequent free-kick Drogba’s header took the ball away from John Terry, with the skipper lurking ominously.
Two minutes later, however, we weren’t to be denied as we took an early lead following a quick break.
Azpilicueta did well to dispossess Drogba and laid the ball inside to Schurrle; the German intelligently flicked it back into the path of the left-back, who had continued his run, and with plenty of time to look up he slid it across the face of the goal to an unmarked Torres who rolled the ball into an empty net.
It was the perfect way to begin an away game in Europe, but Roberto Mancini, whose teams are renowned for their defensive discipline, will have been disappointed with the ease in which we were able to make the breakthrough.
It was a confident start by the Blues, with the attacking midfield trio enjoying plenty of time on the ball and looking threatening every time they advanced.
It took until just before the 20-minute mark for Galatasaray to register an attempt on goal; Sneijder’s delivery from wide on the left was inviting but, with time to steady himself and take a touch, Yilmaz snatched at it and fired into the home supporters packed in behind the goal.
The Blues were unfortunate not to profit from a wonderful counter attack, started by a well-timed Willian challenge on the edge of our box, when Hazard looked to be clean through having latched on to a delightful slide-rule pass from the Brazilian. Chedjou, though, was able to use his strength to muscle the Belgian off the ball and the opportunity went begging.
Tactically, we’d started the game with Willian, rather than Hazard, operating through the middle, and Schurrle playing wide on the right, and the early signs were certainly promising, with the former Shakhtar Donetsk man making a number of crucial interceptions and launching quick breaks.
As the half-hour mark approached Mourinho would have been pleased with the manner in which his side had started the game. Ramires fired over the bar as we threatened again, arriving in the box to meet Schurrle’s cross, with the bounce of the ball as it reached him making it difficult to keep the shot down.
Cech did well to divert a Yekta Kurtulus drive around the post as the Turkish outfit looked to rally before the interval, but it was Chelsea continuing to look the more likely, particularly on the break with the pace and trickery of Hazard.
In the final minute of the first half a wonderful opportunity to expend our lead went to waste, and it was a move which followed a similar pattern to the opening goal. Azpilicueta won the ball in our own half but, on this occasion, rather than exchanging passes with Schurrle, it was Hazard releasing the Spaniard. With more time on his side than he realised, however, he opted to come inside when he should have gone for goal and was eventually crowded out.
It was Galatasaray seeing more of the ball during the opening minutes of the second half, but from our first attack we almost doubled our lead.
Hazard pounced on a loose ball deep inside the home side’s half, driving at the retreating defenders and, as they backed off, he threaded a brilliant ball in behind to Torres, who held off the challenge of Kertulus, only to be thwarted by a brilliant save from Muslera low down to his left.
The flow of the game was then broken up by four bookings in quick succession, with Schurrle, Ramires and Cech seeing yellow for the Blues, while Selcuk Inan was cautioned for a trip on Lampard.
Galatasaray were slowly working themselves into the game, and they almost restored parity when Inan flicked a shot against the foot of the post from a Drogba knock-down.
A minute later, however, they were level. Drogba forced a corner off Ivanovic, and as the resulting kick was swung into the Chelsea penalty area, Chedjou arrived unchallenged to volley into the back of the net.
It was an equaliser which, in truth, flattered the hosts, but the warning signs had been there since the restart.
Galatasaray’s goal prompted Mourinho to make two substitutions in the space of a couple of minutes, with Mikel replacing Schurrle as he looked to tighten up, and Samuel Eto’o introduced at the expense of Torres.
As an attacking unit we were struggling to reproduce the intensity in our game which the Turkish side had found so difficult to deal with in the first half and it was Mancini’s side with their tails up.
Cech was forced into an excellent save to deny Alex Telles, whose strike looked destined for the top corner, and with 11 minutes left to play Drogba made way for Umut Bulut.
The Blues, for the first time in the second half, then began to retain possession and make their opponents chase the ball, but from a rare foray forward Mikel blasted high over the bar as we pressed for a winner.
At the other end, meanwhile, Terry produced a sound defensive header with Bulut threatening from a Sneijder cross.
As the final whistle sounded, Mourinho, while not ecstatic, will have been quietly satisfied with the result ahead of the return leg at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Ramires, Lampard; Willian, Hazard (Oscar 90), Schurrle (Mikel 66); Torres (Eto’o 68)
Unused substitutes: Schwarzer, Cole, Kalas, Mikel, Ba
Scorer Torres 9
Booked Terry 41, Schurrle 56, Ramires 57, Cech 60
Galatasaray (4-2-3-1): Muslera; Eboue, Chedjou, Balta (Kaya), Telles; Melo, Inan (c); Hajrovic (Kurtulus 30), Yilmaz, Sneijder; Drogba (Bulut 79)
Unused substitutes: Ceylan, Gulselam, Colak, Sarioglu
Scorer Chedjou 65
Booked Inan 56
Referee Carlos Carballo (Spain)