Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

From Simulation to Stimulation, Didier Played the Role of Pansy and Enforcer

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

From Simulation to Stimulation, Didier Played the Role of Pansy and Enforcer

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Jones

DIDIER DROGBA walked off the pitch at Stamford Bridge last night waving a blue flag above his head with such pride and fervour it seemed he might spontaneously combust. The crowd before him roared with approval. He roared back at them, in vindication.

For two frantic hours against Napoli, Drogba had been Chelsea's wrecking ball: battering at the crumbling brickwork of the Italians' defence, punching holes until the whole edifice finally collapsed. He threw everything he had -- not all of it pretty -- into a terrific Champions League tie, and won. He was temperamental but magnificent -- the latter outweighing the former. As his flag fluttered in the floodlit night air he deserved his moment of adulation.

It is a matter of days -- 11, to be exact -- since Drogba was an uncomfortable member of the albatrossed Andre Villas-Boas experiment. Unwanted and under-indulged by the manager, he spent much of this season sullen and exasperated, fulfilling Villas-Boas's judgement that he was over the hill and ripe for a sale.

Last night, though, Drogba showed that he is still capable, when he feels up to it, of everything that between 2006-10 placed him among the best strikers in the world: good enough in 2007 to be rated alongside Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho in the FifPro World XI. He looked sharp, fast, aggressive, indomitably strong and -- most valuably of all -- capable of moments of outrageous deceit and blatant cheating that drove Napoli's players and fans to paroxysms of self-defeating rage.

Every trick in the Drogba playbook was wheeled out last night. When a Chelsea attack broke down early in the first half he was to be seen sitting on the turf holding his foot like he'd had every metatarsal splintered with a sharp stiletto. The severity of his 'injury' waxed and waned as he watched play unfold downfield and he amped up his writhing and moaning to attempt maximum referee-distraction when Napoli's counter-attacking move seemed to be most threatening.

Then, having picked himself up from this bout of hilarious play-acting, he switched gears. On 29 minutes he bullocked through a well-peopled penalty area to direct Ramires's cross with a firm downward header into the Napoli goal. …

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