He was banned for three matches as a result of the X-rated tirade which followed last season's dramatic semi-final exit against Barcelona but last night he returned to European football in spectacular style.
In another frantic finish against Spanish opposition, Drogba scored two goals in six minutes to clinch Chelsea's place in the knock-out stages of the competition.
Top Drog: Didier Drogba celebrates his double strike against Atletico Madrid
Carlo Ancelotti's team had been trailing to a stunning volley fromSergio Aguero and struggling to contain a resurgent Atletico.
There was certainly no sign of the free-scoring form of the lastfortnight but that mattered little when Drogba levelled with eightminutes to go.
It was the simplest of goals a left-wing cross from FlorentMalouda that was nodded in from close range by the big centre forwardas he stood unmarked in front of goal.
Drogba looked to have gone one better and won the game for Chelseawhen he broke clear of the Atletico defence in the 88th minute.
His first effort was saved by goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo but the rebound dropped kindly and Drogba rolled it into an empty net.
Once again he was screaming, this time in delight, after his 12th goal of the season in all competitions.
'I wouldn't want to change him for any striker,' said Ancelotti, who admitted he would not object to pairing Drogba with Aguero, a summer transfer target for Chelsea who was priced out of a move by his club.
'It's not great to concede a goal in the last minute but we are inthe next phase of the Champions League with two matches to go. That wasa difficult match because Atletico played very well. They put a lot ofpressure on us in first half but I think we did well not the best butit was good.'
Aguero hit back for Atletico in stoppage time with a deliciouscurling free-kick millimetres inside Petr Cech's left-hand post but thepoint was enough for Chelsea to go through thanks to Porto's win against APOEL.
Power Sergio: Aguero fires the ball over the wall and inside Cech's post to grab an added-time equaliser for Atletico
It was breathless and pulsating action in the passionate arena ofthe Vicente Calderon Stadium and it was far more entertaining than anyof Chelsea's four one-sided victories in the last fortnight, when Ancelotti's team scored 17 without conceding.
By contrast, Atletico's season so far has been bleak. They languish in La Liga's relegation zone with onlyone win but started positively last night, with new coach QuiqueSanchez Flores committed to an attacking system of twin strikers, twogenuine wingers and an upbeat tempo.
Centre half Juanito, unattended at a corner, missed the target witha header and a fierce 25-yarder from Diego Forlan flashed a foot wideinside the first five minutes.
Former Arsenal striker Jose Antonio Reyes, though stillinfuriatingly quick to hit the deck at the first sign of contact, wasbright and lively on Atletico's right.
He drew Michael Essien into a foul which earned the midfielder afirst-half booking but then extended Cech with a wonderful curlingshot. It was destined for the top corner until the goalkeeper took offto his left, unfurled his giant frame and clawed the ball around thepost.
The home crowd took their cue and turned up the volume, thumping ondrums and jumping in the stands, but the moment of brilliance from Cechinspired his team-mates, at least momentarily.
Joe and Ashley Cole combined on the left, with Joe's backheelreleasing the left back, who delivered an excellent deep cross. SalomonKalou arrived late to win the ball in the air but his header driftednarrowly wide.
Kalou held his head and Atletico were soon back on the attack.Cleber, who had looked unfortunate to be flagged for offside when hewas released earlier by Reyes, went close from distance.
Enlarge Net play: Drogba wheels away after scoring his second
A similar open pattern unfolded in the second half.
Atletico pressed Chelsea back and Cleber missed the target withskiddy header from Simao's corner before Drogba almost made thebreakthrough in the 51st minute.
After being fouled by Pablo Ibanez outside the penalty box on theChelsea left, the Ivorian striker picked himself up and took thefree-kick himself. His drive dipped and wobbled but Asenjo pushed it onto the post.
Flores made his first change of the night, sending on Aguero forFlorent Sinama Pongolle, and the switch gave the game impetus. TheArgentine, rated at more than £50million by his club, was straight intothe action and the noisy home fans screamed for a penalty when he wasmuscled off the ball by Alex.
None of the Atletico players shared their sentiment and referee Bjorn Kuipers certainly did not. He waved play on.
High rise: Drogba leaps above the Atletico rearguard to pull Chelsea level
Ancelotti responded by sending on Michael Ballack for Essien.
Drogba, back in his own goalmouth to help defend, was clattered byCech as the pair cleared another teasing free-kick from Simao butChelsea were soon behind.
John Terry could not cut out a left-wing cross from full backAntonio Lopez and the ball dropped to Aguero, who flashed the ball pastCech on the volley. The finish was worthy of a £50m player and sparkedan incredible finale.
Chelsea's two goals may seem like a famine compared to the previousfour games but were enough to keep morale high ahead of the visit of Manchester United on Sunday.
'We were thinking about Sunday's game,' said Drogba. 'It is reallyimportant for us to beat United at home. We have to improve and showdifferent qualities and be better than we were in Madrid but it wasn'ta poor performance.'
Now watch our video report.
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