The final part of the feature series – where a certain header in injury time made us create history that no other club has ever done…
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.
In the fifth and penultimate part – we witnessed the greatest moment in the history of Chelsea Football Club.
And finally, we arrive at the sixth and final part of this series – where we create history once again.
So… let’s continue with the sixth and final part – the 2012-13 UEFA Europa League campaign.
HOW THE CLUB QUALIFIED (Well, ‘qualified’ is an interesting word…)
Chelsea ‘qualified’ for the UEFA Europa League by not progressing past the group stages of the 2012-13 Champions League. The Blues finished third in a group consisting of Juventus, Shakhtar Donetsk & FC Nordsjælland.
ROUND OF 32
vs Sparta Prague (Chelsea won 2-1 on Agg.)
Chelsea started their Europa League campaign against the Czech side Sparta Prague in the Round of 32.
In the first leg, Chelsea travelled to the Czech capital and left with a crucial away goal and a 1-0 win thanks to Oscar’s 82nd-minute winner.
In the second leg, the Stamford Bridge crowd had to wait until Eden Hazard’s left-footed missile into the roof of the Sparta net in added-on injury-time to make certain of their progression to the Round of 16, after David Lafata first-half goal brought back into the tie.
Scores & Scorers:
• 1st Leg – 1-0 (Oscar 82’′)
• 2nd Leg – 1-1 (Hazard 90+2′ ; Lafata 16′)
ROUND OF 16
vs Steaua București (Chelsea won 3-2 on Agg.)
In the next round, Chelsea once again had to make a long-distance trip across as they were drawn against the Romanians Steaua București in the Round of 32.
The Blues suffered a surprising 1-0 defeat in Bucharest at the Arena Națională, courtesy of a Raul Rusescu penalty. In the second leg, Chelsea took the lead through Juan Mata to level the tie before Vlad Chiricheș ‘s goal in the last seconds of the first half to put the Liga I side back in the lead.
Come the second half, Chelsea found another gear and thanks to goals from John Terry and Fernando Torres and had enough in the end too see off Bucharest and qualify for the Quarter-Finals.
Scores & Scorers:
• 1st Leg – 0-1 (Rusescu 34′ (pen))
• 2nd Leg – 3-1 (Mata 32′, Terry 58′, Torres 71′ ; Chiricheș 45′)
vs Rubin Kazan (Chelsea won 5-4 on Agg.)
Another round, another long trip for Chelsea to travel to. Next destination – Russia and we went up against Rubin Kazan. Goals from Torres and Victor Moses in both legs were enough for Chelsea to progress to the semi-finals with a 5-4 aggregate win.
The 3-2 loss to Kazan in Russian was the last time that Chelsea have lost in the Europa League, with the Blues currently unbeaten in their last 17 games.
Scores & Scorers:
• 1st Leg – 3-1 (Torres 16′, 70, Moses 32′ ; Natkho 41′ (pen))
• 2nd Leg – 2-3 (Marcano 51′, Gökdeniz 62′, Natkho 75′ (pen) ; Torres 5′, Moses 55′)
vs Basel (Chelsea won 5-2 on Agg.)
Basel now stood between Chelsea and their first ever Europa League Final.
In the first leg at St. Jakob-Park, Moses gave Chelsea an early lead and looked to be gaining a 1-0 win. But a Fabian Schär penalty with only three minutes left before David Luiz popped up with a great free-kick to score four minutes in injury time to seal the 2-1 win and two valuable away goals.
In the second leg, Chelsea comfortably booked their place in the final at Ajax’s Amsterdam Arena with a 3-1 win, via goals from Torres, Moses and an incredible long-range effort from Luiz.
Scores & Scorers:
• 1st Leg – 2-1 (Schär 87′ (pen) ; Moses 12′, David Luiz 90+4′)
• 2nd Leg – 3-1 (Torres 50′, Moses’ 52, David Luiz 59′ ; Salah 45+1′)
vs Benfica (2-1, Torres 60′, Ivanovic 90+3′ ; Cardozo 68′ (pen))
For the second season in a row, Chelsea was playing in a European final. Last season it was Bayern Munich, this season it’s Benfica. Just like last season, Chelsea went into a European final missing key players with both Eden Hazard and John Terry injured.
After a cautious first half where both sides wasted opportunities, the game exploded into life on the hour mark. Torres, running from the centre-circle, beat two defenders before rounding Benfica’s Artur in to coolly slot away and give Chelsea the lead. The Spaniard’s goal was definitely a throwback to the peak ‘El Niño’ we knew of.
Just eight minutes though, Benfica got back into via an Oscar Cardozo penalty after Eduardo Salvio’s header struck the hand of Azpilicueta.
Both teams once more had chances of winning the game but it was not until the third of injury time when Branislav Ivanovic, between two defenders, rose the highest to a Juan Mata and saw his header loop over Artur in the far corner to seal the win for Rafa Benitez’s side and immortalise him forever with his celebration afterwards.
With the win over Benfica, Chelsea captured their first-ever Europa League trophy and their fifth major European title overall.
And with that triumph, they became the first ever Champions League holders to win the Europa League and only the fourth club (first in England) to have won all three major European titles – the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup/Europa League and the UEFA Cup Winners Cup.
Chelsea had become something that no other club has ever done before in European football. By being the first side in history to hold two major European titles simultaneously…
Chelsea Football Club were Double Champions of Europe.
And that is the end of the feature series. It has been great to go nostalgic and reminiscence at the club’s history and success in European football. Hopefully, I’ll be adding another part to this series very soon, where I look back at how Chelsea ‘won’ their sixth major European trophy…
• 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 5 – 2011-12 UEFA Champions League