Part five of the feature series sees us witness the greatest moment in the history of Chelsea Football Club…
Welcome back to ‘The Countdown to Baku’ – looking back at our successful campaigns in European football. In the first part, we saw Chelsea win their first ever European trophy by winning the 1970-71 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, beating the mighty Real Madrid in the final.
In the second part, Chelsea endured snow blizzards in Norway, hostile crowds in Spain and an unforgettable comeback at Stamford Bridge – which all lead to a night to remember in Stockholm.
In part three, we discussed how the Chelsea vs Arsenal rivalry was still a passionate one in Europe but showing issues on the domestic scene. And in part four, we looked back at our Europa League campaign so far this season, from the first game against PAOK all the way to the penalty shootout victory over Eintracht Frankfurt in the Semi-Finals.
Now we arrive at the fifth and penultimate part of the feature series – where we witnessed the greatest moment in the history of Chelsea Football Club.
So let’s continue with part five – the 2011-12 UEFA Champions League campaign.
HOW THE CLUB QUALIFIED
Chelsea qualified for the UEFA Champions League – their ninth in a row – by finishing second in the 2010-11 Premier League.
vs Valencia, Bayer Leverkusen & Genk
Going into the Champions League, Chelsea was named in Pot 1 and classed as one of the top 8 seeded teams for the group stages (third overall behind Manchester United and reigning champions Barcelona).
At the group stage draw, the Blues were paired with La Liga side Valencia, Bundesliga’s Bayer Leverkusen and KRC Genk, the sole representative from the Jupiler Pro League.
Chelsea started the group stage off with a solid 2-0 victory at home to Bayer Leverkusen, with goals coming from David Luiz and Juan Mata. In the second game, the Blues travelled to the Mestalla and were unlucky to come away with only a 1-1 draw as a late penalty from Roberto Soldado cancelled out Frank Lampard’s opener.
Back in London, Chelsea thrashed the group minnows Genk 5-0, as goals from Raul Meireles, Branislav Ivanović, Salomon Kalou and a brace from Fernando Torres meant going into the halfway point Andre Villas-Boas’ men held a one-point lead over Leverkusen.
In their fourth game, Chelsea surprisingly failed to get the three points against Genk as Peter Vossen’s equaliser at the Cristal Arena made sure once again that Chelsea dropped points away from home. In the fifth and penultimate game of the group stage, Bayer Leverkusen came from behind to beat the west Londoners 2-1 as goals from Eren Derdiyok & Manuel Friedrich made sure Didier Drogba’s goal was scored in vain.
After getting seven points in their first three games, Chelsea had only picked up one in the next two and was now in danger of getting knocked out. Thankfully though, a Drogba brace along with a well-taken solo effort from Ramires gave the Blues a much-needed 3-0 victory over Valencia in the last game of Group E.
By beating Valencia in the last group game, Chelsea sealed their place in the Round of 16 by finishing top of Group E on eleven points, with Bayer Leverkusen joining them in the knockout stages by finishing in second. Valencia – who went into the final round on top of the table – dropped to third and had to settle for joining the Round of 32 stage of the UEFA Europa League.
ROUND OF 16
vs Napoli (Chelsea won 5-4 on Agg.)
Upon winning the group stage, Chelsea were drawn against Serie A side Napoli in the last 16. And going into the game, Villas-Boas was under immense pressure from the Chelsea board to get results due to poor form going into the first leg.
Unfortunately, Napoli out-gunned Chelsea at the San Paolo stadium to heap more pressure on the Portuguese manager as goals from Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani gave the Naples side a healthy 3-1 lead going into the second leg. Juan Mata’s opener and Ashley Cole’s miraculous goal-line clearance, however, gave Chelsea hope…
Before the second leg though, Chelsea’s build-up was rocked when Villas-Boas was sacked and assistant manager Roberto Di Matteo was put in temporary charge for the rest of the season.
Without anyone realising, the ‘miracle run’ was about to begin.
In front of a sold-out and piercing loud home crowd, Chelsea produced another great night in European football as goals from Drogba, John Terry, Lampard and an incredible extra-time winner from Ivanovic led Chelsea to win 4-1 on the night, 5-4 overall on aggregate and one of the greatest comebacks in the club’s history.
Breathtaking match. And that wasn’t even the best match of the campaign, which says everything…
Scores & Scorers:
• 1st Leg – 1-3 (Lavezzi 37′, 65′, Cavani 45+2′ ; Mata 27′)
• 2nd Leg – 4-1, AET (Drogba 29′, Terry 47′, Lampard 75′ (pen), Ivanovic 105+1′ ; Inler 55′)
vs Benfica (Chelsea won 3-1 on Agg.)
After the emotionally draining performances against Napoli, Benfica were tasked in the Quarter-Finals as the next opponent to stop the blues. Compared to the round before, this was a very straightforward tie for Chelsea.
A solitary goal from Kalou gave Chelsea a 1-0 and a valuable away goal in the first leg at the Estádio da Luz. And despite Javi García scoring late on for Benfica in the second leg to give the Blues some nerves for a few minutes, Lampard’s opener and Raul Meireles’ brilliant solo strike in injury time sealed a 2-1 win for Chelsea and a 3-1 overall win on aggregate as Chelsea progressed to the Semi-Final.
To face the defending champions of Barcelona.
Scores & Scorers:
• 1st Leg – 1-0 (Kalou 75′)
• 2nd Leg – 2-1 (Lampard 21′ (pen), Meireles 90+2′ ; García 85′)
vs Barcelona (Chelsea won 3-2 on Agg.)
UEFA Champions League Semi-Final.
There was history at this stage before three years prior and this encounter was just as lively, if not more.
In the first leg at Stamford Bridge, a single goal from Drogba in first-half injury time, along with an assured, defensive team display ensured Chelsea went to the Camp Nou with a 1-0 aggregate lead.
Then… the second leg happened.
Simply put, Chelsea produced one of the most memorable UEFA Champions League performances in history to defeat Barcelona 3-2 on aggregate.
The Blues displayed herculean resolve in defence to hold out against the reigning European champions, playing the majority of the second leg contest with only 10 men after John Terry was dismissed for a knee in the back of Alexis Sanchez.
Pep Guardiola’s side were already back on terms on aggregate after Sergio Busquets had slotted home in the 35th minute and looked to be on course for the final when Lionel Messi released Andres Iniesta to beat Petr Cech soon after Terry’s needless moment of madness.
But Ramires grabbed a crucial away goal for the Premier League side seconds before the break, producing a sublime first-time lob over Victor Valdes after being released by Lampard to put Di Matteo’s men back in the box seat on away goals.
Messi missed a glorious opportunity to fire Barca back in front at the start of the second half, crashing his penalty against the face of the bar after Didier Drogba brought down Cesc Fabregas and saw another late effort strike the base of the outstanding Cech’s post.
Chelsea were camped on the edge of their own box for huge periods as the Catalan side probed for an opening, but their progress to the final was assured in stoppage time when substitute Fernando Torres burst clear, rounded Valdes and slotted home to spark scenes of pure joy.
The only sour note for the London side were suspensions to Ramires, Terry, Ivanovic and Meireles meant they would miss out on the final.
Words simply don’t do justice to describe what an incredible performance, result and night overall this was.
And yet this still wasn’t the greatest Chelsea night in European football. That was coming…
Scores & Scorers:
• 1st Leg – 1-0 (Drogba 45+2′)
• 2nd Leg – 2-2 (Busquets 35′, Iniesta 43′ ; Ramires 45+1′, Torres 90+2′)
THE UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL
vs Bayern Munich (1-1, Müller 83′ ; Drogba 88′ – AET, Chelsea won 4-3 on penalties)
Munich. Where do we even begin?
After the incredible heroics of Barcelona, Chelsea had one final obstacle to overcome in their way to finally win the UEFA Champions League and be known as ‘Champions of Europe’.
And that obstacle was the Bundesliga side Bayern Munich. In the German’s very own Allianz Arena. The odds were most certainly against the Blues that night and were definitely seen as the underdogs.
But we all know what happened when Chelsea were against the odds against Napoli and Barcelona… right?
Di Matteo sent Chelsea out with a game-plan to contain Bayern and, for the most part, the policy worked as Jupp Heynckes’ side sought to pick holes in a resolute defence.
The likes of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Thomas Müller and Mario Gómez were frustrated by a defensive display that was bordering on perfection.
Chance after chance.
Block after block.
Tackle after tackle.
Clearance after clearance.
For 82 minutes, Chelsea had every answer to stop Bayern. The 60 seconds later, Munich finally broke the deadlock after Muller’s downward header surprised Cech as it bounced into the roof of the net. Chelsea had seven minutes to save their dream and prevent a repeat of heartbreak from four years earlier.
Then Didier Drogba – the big man for the big game – the cup final specialist… met the in-swinging cross from Mata and sent an unstoppable header past Manuel Neuer to equalise with just three minutes left and forced the game to go into extra-time.
As said on the night, Chelsea pulled the rabbit out the hat. Again.
Drogba looked primed to go from hero to villain three minutes into extra-time when he tripped Ribery in the box, but Cech spared the striker as he kept out former team-mate Robben’s low penalty.
The rest of the added period was tense and nervous as neither side wanted to make a mistake and thus… penalties came.
Bayern captain Philipp Lahm got them off the mark in the shootout, before Mata’s weak attempt was saved by Neuer. Gomez, Luiz, Neuer and Lampard all converted their spot-kicks to have the shootout score beat 3-2 in Bayern’s favour.
Ivica Olić then had his penalty saved by Cech and with Ashley Cole coolly slotting home his shot into the side netting, the teams were once again at 3-3. Bastian Schweinsteiger stepped up and surprisingly hit the post.
Four years ago, Chelsea were one penalty away from winning the Champions League. On that night, John Terry slipped in his run-up and saw his effort hit the post. Chelsea unfortunately, went on to lose that shootout against Manchester United.
Four years later, Chelsea were once again in the same situation. One penalty away from winning the best competition in club football.
This time, the honour of taking the last penalty went to Drogba, who was playing (at the time) his last ever match in the blue shirt of Chelsea.
The Ivorian stepped up and confidently sent Neuer the wrong way to send Chelsea and their fans (both in attendance and around the world) into utter delirium.
Drogba, Cech and every other player involved in Munich delivered the greatest moment in the 107-year history of Chelsea. And still, to this day, the ‘Miracle of Munich’ is celebrated as it was just yesterday.
19th May 2012.
The greatest night in the history of Chelsea Football Club.
I don’t think it’ll ever get any better than this as this night, this campaign, this miraculous ride across ride had it all.
The perfect way to finally become Champions of Europe.
Join me in the final part of the feature series as we look back at the 2012-13 UEFA Europa League campaign, where a certain header in injury time made us create history that no other club has ever done…
• Part 1 – 1970-71 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup
• Part 2 – 1997-98 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup
• Part 3 – ‘From Highbury to Baku’
• Part 4 – ‘The Road to Baku’ (The 2018-19 UEFA Europa League campaign)
• Part 6 – 2012-13 UEFA Europa League