Forget about Sneijder – Hazard’s the man now
These games – even more than the World Cup – are the highest stage for footballers, when the very best prove themselves against one another. This was only Eden Hazard’s second Champions League knock-out game but he made it immediately obvious that he is among the very top bracket of players.
Mancini still to make his mark on Champions League
Roberto Mancini will have to wait another year – at the very least – to make his first serious impression on the Champions League. For all his domestic successes, he remains a stranger to the most serious rounds of the European Cup.
At Internazionale, he went out twice in the last 16 and twice in the quarter-finals. At Manchester City, he never got out of the group stage. His Galatasaray team never looked much like reaching the last eight and did not even have the basic Mancini quality of defensive solidity. That, and his will to win, were his traditional strengths. Jose Mourinho has reached the semi-finals of this competition a remarkable seven times. Mancini has not managed it once.
Drogba maybe a legend but his legs have gone
Mourinho said on Monday that Didier Drogba could return to Stamford Bridge as a “player, a coach or an ambassador”, but the first of those three scenarios did not look particularly likely this evening.
Drogba received the reception everyone expected. He was celebrated when the teams were read out, when he came out to warm up and when he received a commemorative silver boot from Ron Gourlay just before kick-off. But those were his highlights.
His first attacking involvement was to be offside from a Sneijder pass, his next to hit an acrobatic volley well over the bar. When he had a free-kick 25 yards from goal, he managed to pick out the ‘Drogba Legend’ banner hanging from the Matthew Harding Upper. The sense of theatre remains, but the sharpness looked gone.