“And he’s scored! Well I can’t believe he meant it – maybe he did, but who cares?
“This extraordinary game has taken another twist and Frank Lampard has scored pretty much from the byline”.
It was a moment of artistry, a moment of jaw-dropping skill and a moment where Chelsea’s number eight cemented himself as one football’s top midfielders.
Tuesday 31st October 2006, Catalonia, the Camp Nou.
Barcelona welcomed Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea for a mouth-watering Champions League group stage tie. It was the second of a double-header which would likely define the route of the group. Two weeks previously, a Didier Drogba swivel on the edge of the box and a curling right footed shot was enough to give the Blues all three points.
This occasion would also be the sixth meeting between the-then English and Spanish Champions in Europe’s premier competition since Mourinho’s arrival in 2004.
The two clubs had faced off against one another in two knockout ties at the same stage of the competition the previous two seasons. Chelsea were the victors in the early Spring of 2005 when John Terry’s iconic header sent Stamford Bridge into raptures, overturning a 2-1 deficit in a mad second leg which saw Chelsea storm into a 3-0 lead within 20 minutes thanks to goals from Eidur Gudjohnsen, Frank Lampard and Damien Duff – to only have the tie swung back into the visitors favour by half-time.
It was a second leg which also featured one of the goals of the decade when Ronaldinho dinked a chip into the bottom corner from just outside the box -leaving Petr Cech stranded. A goal nearly fifteen years later is still as unexplainable and spell binding.
The rematch a season later saw Barca get their payback. Once again winning the first leg 2-1, this time at Stamford Bridge, as the ten-men of Chelsea struggled to live with a wave of yellow-shirted attacks lead by a young Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto, who headed the winner with 10 minutes to spare.
There was to be no second leg overhaul in Spain with the tie playing out as a quite forgetful 1-1. Ronaldinho once again playing a starring role, ducking and diving his way past challenges before firing in on 78 minutes, effectively killing off the tie. Frank Lampard would net a penalty in stoppage time, but it was only a consolation.
“We have not seen two games where we had 11 players versus 11 – that’s all I can say.”
Mourniho’s jibe after referred to Barcelona’s man advantage after a first half dismissal of left-back Asier del Horno, with some theatrics from Lionel Messi thrown in.
By the time the Blues drew Barcelona, for the first time in the group stage – a rivalry had quickly been forged.
“When we started playing in the Champions League and came up against Barcelona, it felt like a different world. Little Chelsea against the Mighty Barca.” says Iain Rodger, Shed Upper Season Ticket holder, CPO (Chelsea Pitch Owners) shareholder and contributor to the CFC UK Fanzine.
“But then as we kept getting drawn against them, in knock-out games and the group stage, we suddenly found out that we could not only match them but even beat them.”
Only Rafael Benítez’s Liverpool side could lay claim to being as heated a rival to Mourinho’s Chelsea in the same period. Apart from having the high possibility of a controversial red-card (usually to a Chelsea player), the battle of Barca’s free-flowing football to Mourinho’s pragmatism – this for Roman Abramovich – sky-rocketed the west London side to the forefront of European football.
Chelsea had quickly asserted themselves as one of the Premier League’s best, so the next natural step was European glory and the Champions League would quickly become the Holy Grail chased by the Londoners for all of the mid to late ‘noughties’.
After three subsequent matchdays, Chelsea arrived to the Camp Nou on Halloween night five points clear of their rivals, winning their first three games of the group. Dispatching Bundelisga side Werder Bremen comfortably 2-0 at home before brushing past Bulgarian outfit Levski Sofia 3-1 thanks to a Didier Drogba hattrick.
Three days previously, Chelsea had picked up their eighth win of the season away to Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, but despite a good run of form had suffered with an Goalkeeping injury crisis earlier in the month when Petr Cech suffered a fractured skull at Reading. His replacement, Carlo Cudicini, would be forced off after falling unconscious to a collision with centre back Ibrahima Sonko from a corner.
The set of circumstances lead to John Terry donning an oversized grey goalkeeping top and going between the sticks to see out a tense 1-0 victory.
Third choice Hilario would unexpectedly arise as Chelsea’s number one for the foreseeable future and became quite a cult hero among support during this period, keeping out Barca’s attack in his first start days after the Reading victory.
Despite this injury woe, this was still a formidable Chelsea eleven.
A back two of Ricardo Carvalho and John Terry (arguably the best in the club’s history) the recently acquired Ashley Cole at left-back. A midfield quartet compiled of two Micheals – Essien and Ballack, Claude Makelele and joining Didier Drogba and Arjen Robben in attack, Frank Lampard.
Barcelona fielded the likes of Carlos Puyol, Van Bronckhorst, Xavi, Deco, Messi and Chelsea’s menace Ronaldinho.
Most notably was a name that featured and scored for the Blues in 2005, now in the iconic Red and Blue – and that was the Icelandic Gudjohnson who’d made a summer switch to Spain after six successful years in west London.
Chelsea fell behind within three minutes when a future Blue, Deco, would drive with the ball down the left and cut inside before sweetly drilling a shot past a flying Hilario to explode the contest into life.
Chelsea were getting easily cut apart as the dazzling feet of Lionel Messi proved too hot to handle on the right wing as the Argentine found his way into the box, cutting the ball back to Ronaldinho who surprisingly blasted over.
Hilario would once again come to the Blues rescue, saving brilliantly from a Xavi effort.
For once, 11 V 11, the Blues looked outnumbered and slightly overwhelmed, relieved to be going into the break only a goal down.
Without creating much of note, and mostly spending the opening half giving away fouls of being cautioned by Italian referee Stefano Farina, a moment of inspiration was needed.
The source of that required inspiration wasn’t unexpected but the nature of it definitely was.
A hooked ball back into the area by Claude Makelele left most static, Drogba didn’t move in the likely fear of being flagged offside, and with Barca’s defence keeping a high line expected any Chelsea player would be waved off if they attempted to retrieve it.
Though there was one man who was onside and was quick enough to latch onto it, and that was Frank Lampard.
His first touch was uncharacteristically scruffy on his left foot forcing him wider as the Barcelona defence retreated promptly. Being hounded down by Italian defender Gianluca Zambrotta, the midfielder didn’t have time to think about his next move, he took one subtle touch on his right and swivelled in one full motion again to chip the ball towards the far post.
Time stood still as everyone gazed at the effort, the ball looping with backspin into the Catalonian air.
Valdes frantically made one leap, outstretching his left fingertips high as his right hand grasped the post. His best aerial efforts were all for nothing as the ball evaded his grasp, missing the crossbar by a whisker and spinning gracefully into the net.
Lampard wheeled away in celebration, his right arm pointed up in the air before being bundled to the ground by teammates Drogba and Cole. The home crowd stunned into silence as the cheer of the Chelsea fans, high up into the night sky audibly rung out.
Chelsea TV commentator Ben Andrews voice perfectly encapsulated the emotion felt among those watching in the stadium and around the world.
“.. I can’t believe he meant it, maybe he did”.
First viewing of the goal might have led you – like Andrews first impression – to believe Lampard had intended something else and the goal was an attempted cross which found its way to goal.
Though closer inspection to the goal, and by the words of Lampard himself tell a different story.
“Sometimes I do it as a bit of fun, but it is a test of your skill and I practise shooting from all angles and with both feet,” Lampard told Sky Sports later that night.
“Millions of times I have done that and missed the target and then it comes good.
“The first touch let me down so I suppose that is what made the goal because that is what gave me the angle.
“When I scored, I didn’t really have any other option than to clip it over the goalkeeper. I had to get the right trajectory and it was a great feeling when it dropped in.”
It is no surprise that Lampard, a player notorious for spending time after training sessions practicing shooting, trying to perfect every element of his game would be capable of executing such a goal.
So much of the criticism of Lampard from naysayers were about him being not as “naturally gifted” as the likes of his compatriots Paul Scholes or Steven Gerrard, but this was one of many moments that challenged that argument.
You could assume the chip was aimed towards Didier Drogba at the back post, but replays show that the Ivorian was central, not on the move and the small window of opportunity Lampard had to execute that cross didn’t allow him the time to find his peer.
The eyes of the England international were only towards goal so this was no moment of fortune, but all of world-class precision.
Inside a footballing temple like the Camp Nou gives the moment that extra weight of grandeur and prestige. Six years later, Lampard would play another part in another historic chip by a Chelsea player at the same ground.
Feeding a ball through to the onrushing Ramires, whose effort helped to spearhead one of the greatest nights in the club’s history. Lampard probably still lays claim to a better goal, even if it didn’t hold the same historical significance.
Lampard’s leveller might be mistakenly recalled as the last minute equaliser which caused a Jose Mourinho knee-slide, but you’d be wrong.
Barcelona would take the lead again six minutes later.
A Ronaldinho flick would leave Khalid Boulahrouz in the dust and would feed of all people Gudjohnsen to slot into an empty net. The forward, who was once shaving in the gleaming reflection of a Premier League trophy in the Stamford Bridge dressing room was now wheeling away in celebration.
But it would be Didier Drogba who would have the last laugh, taking a John Terry headed knockdown on his chest and drilling an effort low and hard to draw Chelsea level in the 90th minute. Chelsea had once again gotten one other on their Spanish foes and Mourinho would bask in the wide scorn of the Nou Camp’s dislike towards his side.
As the Blues played the last trick on All Hallows’ Eve.
Chelsea would go onto qualify top of the group, not without the slight hiccup of their only defeat to Werder Bremen on a cold November evening where Lampard would be dismissed with a rare second yellow.
A last day routine victory over the group’s whipping boys Levski Sofia – who finished bottom with zero points – secured top spot over Barcelona.
Lampard had many special moments in his over decade long career at Stamford Bridge, becoming the clubs highest ever goal scorer in the process of a glittering career that took him from a doubted youngster to one of the world’s greatest attacking midfielders of his generation.
The midfielder’s career was predicated upon key goals on big occasions – the double to win the title at the Reebok, a winning strike against Everton in the FA Cup final and his 201st against Aston Villa in 2013 – but this might have been one not as significant but undeniably left a mark.
“Frank’s byline goal against them never got the credit it deserved.” Iain Rodger tells The Echo. “A fluke, they said. Well, he’s on record as saying he meant it. I didn’t think it could get any better than that. Until, of course, we drew with them 2-2 in 2012 in the same stadium. But this time with an even better outcome…”.
The club’s official YouTube channel released a “TOP 10” list of Lampard’s best goals, his byline goal featuring at number six two places behind another chip – against Hull in 2009 from the edge of the box. Subjectivity and personal preference is key here, but for such a stunning goal against an opponent of that magnitude, the purist in one would like to see it in the top five.
13 years have passed since that dramatic night in Barcelona, and Lampard is still making Chelsea fans dreams a reality – but this time from a dugout, as a Manager. His youthful, exuberant and free-flowing side are already proving doubters wrong and making quick progress in a short space of time.
It would feel apt Lampard would oversee his best victory in the job so far on a glamorous European tie. Michy Batshauyi’s 85th minute winner would send the Blues back across the Channel with all three points neatly tucked in their travel bags.
Chelsea’s greatest ever goalscorer is quick for humility and a healthy dose of self-deprecation thrown in for good measure. But even he found it hard to deny the brilliance of a world-class moment of individual skill he produced on that Halloween night.
Lovers of London’s Finest will gleefully enlighten you on why Frank Lampard is Super and they’ve got 203 reasons to do so – this was one that maybe needs more recognition.
Follow Daniel on Twitter for more opinions on Chelsea Football Club.
You can also watch Daniel’s opinions on Chelsea through his YouTube channel – SonOfChelsea – where he covers all things surrounding the club.
Also, follow Chelsea Echo on Twitter for everything that is Chelsea