Fans of any club that has ever competed in the UEFA Champions League will tell you that there are no nights as good as Champions League nights. Chelsea players and fans alike have enjoyed plenty of these over the years, especially since Roman Abramovich took over at Stamford Bridge, and here are, arguably, the three very best.
Chelsea 4-4 Liverpool, Champions League Quarter-Final Second Leg – April 4, 2009
Without doubt, this is one of the greatest European ties to have ever taken place in England, as Chelsea looked to protect the 3-1 win they had picked up at Anfield. The Reds pulled it back to 3-3 after just under 30 minutes thanks to goals from Fabio Aurelio and Xabi Alonso and this put the fire in the bellies of the Chelsea players as Didier Drogba and a thunderous free-kick from Alex restored their two-goal cushion.
Frank Lampard’s first goal gave his side the lead on the night, before an onslaught of Liverpool attacks left Blues fans sweating. Lucas and then Dirk Kuyt brought Rafa Benitez’s men back into the fray. With less than a minute on the clock, Lampard not only completed his brace and ended any hopes of a Reds comeback, he also finished off one of the greatest nights in Chelsea history. This season, the Blues are already assured of a place in the last 16 of the competition, with the latest Champions League betting odds finding them at 18/1 in the outright winner markets as of December 5. While the tipsters may not be backing them to go all the way, Blues fans will be hopeful of similar knockout stage exploits as those seen eight years ago.
Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea, Champions League Semi-Final Second Leg – April 24, 2014
This isn’t just one of the best European nights in Blues history, but one of the best in the competition’s history. Chelsea were dealt a huge blow in the second leg after six minutes as Gary Cahill was forced off through injury and replaced by Jose Bosingwa, a player not known for his defensive capabilities. The problem was made ten times worse as John Terry was needlessly sent off for planting his knee into the back of Alexis Sanchez on the 37th minute just two minutes after Sergio Busquets had brought the hosts back level on aggregate. Andres Iniesta looked to have put the tie out of reach for Roberto Di Matteo’s side with a goal just a few moments before the break at the Nou Camp.
However, there was still time for more action before halftime as Lampard, who was piecing a very broken Chelsea side together, played a perfectly-weighted ball for Ramires. The Brazilian midfielder then unleashed one of the greatest chips of all-time as his lobbed effort nonchalantly dropped under Victor Valdes’ crossbar. The Blues still had plenty of defending to do in the second half and when Drogba upended Cesc Fabregas in the box just four minutes after the restart, it looked like they would be crashing out. Lionel Messi stepped up and slammed his penalty into the woodwork and his side failed to penetrate the makeshift Blues defence for the rest of the second period.
Fernando Torres then took his chance to confirm Chelsea’s place in the final as he ran onto an Ashley Cole clearance before calmly rounding Valdes and rolling the ball into the Barca net. There were scenes of jubilation on the Chelsea bench and in the away end as their caretaker manager had led them to a Champions League Final against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.
Bayern Munich 1-1 Chelsea, Champions League Final – May 19, 2012
Undoubtedly the greatest night in the history of Chelsea Football Club, as they did the impossible on Bayern Munich’s own turf and won their first ever Champions League trophy. The Blues went into the clash without John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires and Raul Meireles through suspension and with Ryan Bertrand starting on the left-wing, it was clear the majority of their time would be spent defending. This was exactly how the match panned out and the Blues were resilient in the way they stopped Bayern attack after attack. But it all fell to pieces in the 83rd minute as Thomas Müller’s header beat Petr Cech at his near post and it looked as though Chelsea dreams had been shattered until the biggest of big-game players stepped up to the fore.
In the 88th minute of the match, Chelsea won a corner and Juan Mata went across to the far side of the pitch to take it. The pint-sized Spaniard whipped in a typical brilliant left-footed ball and it was met by a certain Didier Drogba who managed to power his header past the outstretched arm of Manuel Neuer at the front post. This sent the match to extra time, where Drogba nearly became the villain by conceding another Champions League penalty after taking Franck Ribery’s legs away from him in the box. Arjen Robben, the former Chelsea wide man, saw his spot-kick saved by the left arm of Cech, which kept the Blues in the game and in the Champions League.
120 minutes had been played and the match would be decided by penalties. Phillip Lahm, Mario Gomez and Neuer put Bayern 3-2 up after Mata had missed his side’s first penalty but as Ivica Olic and Bastian Schweinsteiger both failed to score and Ashley Cole had converted, it was down to Drogba. The Ivorian striker cooly ran up to the ball and stroked it into the bottom left corner of the net; the travelling Chelsea fans went wild as they knew it would be their name being engraved on the famous trophy. It will never be challenged as the best ever Chelsea match due to the fairytale storyline and it rounded off one of the most unlikely European triumphs ever.
Header image by rayand (CC BY 2.0), via Wikimedia Commons