In the 2012 UEFA Champions League cup final, Didier Drogba headed home a Chelsea corner in the final minutes to equalise an earlier Bayern Munich goal to force the game into extra-time. Drogba had been first to react to a ball arriving at the near post as he out-jumped the opposing defence. Chelsea subsequently won that final on penalties and were leading at Old Trafford at the weekend in their 1-1 draw with Manchester United thanks to a goal from the Ivorian which bore an uncanny resemblance to that goal in Munich two years previously.
Drogba was signed in a free transfer during the summer after one year spells in China and Turkey on leaving Chelsea following that famous Champions League victory. The prospect of working again with Jose Mourinho was one the persuasive factors for the Ivorian international in re-joining the London club. Yet with fellow summer signings Diego Costa and Loic Remy adding further options to the Chelsea attack, it was assumed that the ageing legs of 36 year old Drogba would not be used as much as during his previous eight seasons with the club.
Besides being a legend in his native country, Drogba was also welcomed back to Stamford Bridge during the summer as he assumed cult status during those productive years when he was feared by opposing Premier League defences. When both Costa and Remy were declared unfit prior to the weekend game at Manchester United, Mourinho needed no hesitation in turning to Drogba as the leader of the Chelsea attack in their absence.
Although the old change of pace and stamina may not be as evident in the current playing style of Drogba, his football brain and first touch on the ball remains undiminished and just his mere presence on the pitch was sufficient to cause consternation in the home defence.
There were moment s in the game which typified his vision and skill such as when a sublime flick of the ball allowed Eden Hazard a free run at goal and who was eventually denied by ‘keeper David de Gea. On other occasions, the Chelsea forward unsettled the Manchester United defence by his general movement and one touch passing.
Yet it was his trademark near post header from a corner which broke the deadlock at Old Trafford and proved that Drogba has lost none of his mental sharpness to fully justify Mourinho’s decision to re-sign him on a free transfer.
Furthermore, Drogba lasted the full ninety minutes as his team were denied by an added time equaliser by Robin van Persie which followed the controversial dismissal of Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.
It may have been a 1-1 draw between old rivals Manchester United and Chelsea, but the football world was reminded that Didier Drogba is still a force to be respected and that he can still recreate the goals which he frequently plundered during his revered first spell at Stamford Bridge.