This tie lacks the dread that will accompany the other three English clubs going into their respective return legs and Chelsea have retained a sense of authority with Stamford Bridge to come. But events in Istanbul probably exposed their challenge for what it is. José Mourinho publicly considers his team outsiders to win this competition and, in failing to kill off Galatasaray at the first attempt, his players probably proved him right.
Profligacy, not for the first time this season, cost them on the banks of the Bosphorus and a tie that should have been settled early remains on edge. Aurelien Chedjou's equaliser just after the hour, bundled in at a corner as Chelsea's defence momentarily froze in the face of the first real hint of concerted home pressure, has offered the Turks unlikely hope.
Chelsea may have departed with a draw, the like of which Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United could only dream of, but this still seemed like a missed opportunity.
The worry is that it also had a familiar ring. The wastefulness conjured up memories of The Hawthorns earlier this month or the Britannia stadium in December. West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City had rallied to recover points from those games and Chelsea have had near-misses in other games where dominance did not yield a healthy advantage. Gala should have been buried in the opening exchanges, so open and vulnerable were they as the visitors poured through their ranks on the break, but they were able to revive themselves once the Chelsea boot had been removed from their throat. John Obi Mikel and Samuel Eto'o even had to be summoned from the bench in the latter stages to help Chelsea cling on to what they had.
Chedjou's volley from close-range had whipped the locals into a frenzy, the centre-half untracked at a corner with Gary Cahill distracted by Didier Drogba and indecision gripping John Terry and, for once, Petr Cech. Seconds earlier Chelsea had creaked just as alarmingly when Drogba was allowed to nod down and across goal, where Selciuk Inan darted in at the far post and prodded on to the woodwork from a yard out.
In that respect Chelsea could be grateful for a draw, with Cech denying Emmanuel Eboué and Alex Telles before the end, and the rather frenzied finale suggested that the momentum was all Turkish. "After our second half, the players probably understand we can go through," said Roberto Mancini. "It will be difficult but that second half was really important for us."
Galatasaray's late injection of hope was deceptive, however. Chelsea need only remind themselves of how comfortable they had been for the first hour to give themselves heart. A certain trepidation had prompted Hakan Balta and Chedjou to push far too high up the pitch early on, leaving tantalisingly wide open spaces at their back. With Eboué and Telles also too eager to gallop upfield, almost blindly at times, Chelsea could nick possession deep and spring at will. Headed clearances by their centre-halves suddenly became penetrative through-balls, and the visiting trio of creative midfielders relished the regular opportunities to burst into space on the counter.
Mourinho's selection had made that possible, the decision to pick Fernando Torres for a first start since 11 January justified by his slippery running where Eto'o might not have prospered so readily. André Schürrle, too, appeared fresh and eager on only his second start since New Year's Day. Eboué had been hopelessly out of position when the German collected from César Azpilicueta nine minutes in and, having glided into the Turkish half, liberated the marauding full-back inside his marker. The Spaniard charged towards the byline and drew out Fernando Muslera before pulling back for Torres to convert first-time into a gaping net. It was his sixth goal in his last five Champions League starts and a reminder that this team do have striking options.
It still felt like a novelty given the scoreless performances endured by the other English clubs in their respective first leg defeats. Indeed, it was the first goal scored by a Premier League club in any European competition since 12 December, when Roberto Soldado scored against Anzhi Makhachkala. But Chelsea should have had others. Willian might have capitalised on Muslera's scuffed clearance but saw his lob deflected over the bar by the goalkeeper's leap and header. Ramires, too, should have scored but lifted a shot from Schürrle's pull-back high and wide. Then an Eden Hazard pass sent Torres beyond Chedjou and the substitute Semih Kaya but his low shot was turned aside by Muslera.
That save seemed to increase in significance, given that it would have been hard to envisage Galatasaray coming back from two goals down. A draw, therefore, was frustrating and Mourinho wore that seen-it-all-before expression through his post-match duties. He warned that an awkward second leg awaits next month, yet Chelsea remain the most likely of the English contingent still in this competition to progress into the last eight. Whether they can progress much further while still letting opponents off the hook remains to be seen.