Chelsea FC got greatly helped their chances in progressing to the semifinals of the Champions League with a crucial away goal in a 1-0 victory over Benfica. It was an impressive win given the current state of the team and probably not predicted by many outside of Stamford Bridge. But it does not even make the top of their Champions League performances all-time.
Chelsea are not a club with the kind of history and pedigree that usually make a solid living in Europe’s biggest competition. They have only been a consistent participant in Europe’s premier competition since Roman Abramovich bought the club and invested his millions in it.
But since that time they have been one of the world’s most prestigious and always a threat to make a deep run as they are looking more and more likely to this year.
Here is brief breakdown of my top 10 Chelsea performances in Europe.
How, as Chelsea fans, we long back for these days. Jose Mourinho got the Blues back to their second semifinal in a row with this 4-2 victory at home over a tough Bayern side.
Goals from Joe Cole, Didier Drogba and a double from Frank Lampard is the kind of vintage play that establish these players as the legends we call them today.
It was kind of a match indicative of the turning tide of the sports superpowers. No longer would the preeminent ruler reign based on a history of success and tradition of excellence. Big money was spent wisely to counter that this was not just a passing fad, but here to stay.
After a 1-1 draw to the country's-pride Arsenal at Stamford Bridge, few held out hope that the Blues, in their first-ever Champions League quarterfinal, would be able to get the necessary victory at Highbury to advance to the semis.
But Wayne Bridge would score just three minutes from time to add to Lampard’s earlier tally to stun the Gunners with a 2-1 victory.
It was the beginning of what we all see now, a Chelsea side that is always a threat for the grand glory of Europe. Ironic to think it began off the foot of a player who would be the focus of so much turmoil later.
Chelsea tied their biggest margin of victory ever in the competition with this 5-0 win over Racing Genk. This performance makes the list for reasons other than the result itself. It is not much to brag about when the big, bad team from London hosts a tournament minnow, but it is when it is the match where Fernando Torres finally begins to show himself.
The Spanish striker put in the kind of show we have wanted all along, netting two goals and assisting on another. His lethal finishing was the one thing he has missed since his arrival to the club, and was what the club needed most of all. He was perfect on this night.
Unfortunately, it seemed to be more of a single showing than the recapturing of form. He slid back down and was eventually put on the bench in favor of Drogba.
The only time Chelsea qualified for Champions League outside of the Abramovich era, the “very old guard” put in an excellent performance as a true underdog against Barcelona.
Making their way all through qualifying and both group stages, Zola and his teammates found themselves having to take on powerhouse Barcelona, a team loaded with the kind of talent that would make any side nervous to face.
But Chelsea hosted them tough, winning the first leg at Stamford Bridge 3-1 with goals from Zola and a double off of Tore Andre Flo. Zola’s free kick set off a wave of cheers as they had hope of pulling off one of the biggest upsets to date in the tournament.
However, the return leg at Camp Nou was too much for them to hold up, as the cup favorites Barca went on to advance with a 5-1 thrashing.
The Blue’s were at their best in these years, but that had as much to do with their ability to steals wins as with the quality of their play.
Valencia drew Chelsea 1-1 at Stamford Bridge, to give them the slight edge heading into the second leg at the Mestalla. However, Andriy Schevchenko would make his greatest contribution ever in Blue’s uniform to level that game at 1-1 after a first half score by Valencia.
But rather than letting it go to extra time, Chelsea pressed forward and was rewarded with a sensational build up play goal from the fresh from injury return of Michael Essien.
The game itself was enthralling to watch, but it kept the hopes alive of an unprecedented quadruple trophy season.
Never had I watched a more exciting game as a Chelsea supporter than this mid-April match between Chelsea and Liverpool in the quarterfinals. The Blues came in with a resounding lead, 3-1 aggregate at Anfield. There was little denial that the team would not be able to hold up at their fortress they call Stamford Bridge.
However, just 30 minutes into the match, they found themselves level on aggregate at 3-3. A goal from Drogba gave the edge again and Alex opened the gap more in what can only be described as one of the top five shots in all of Chelsea history.
Then came one of the most exciting finishes ever in a football match. Liverpool scored twice in the last ten minutes to keep their hopes alive and momentum in their favor. But it would not be enough as the trio of Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Frank Lampard combined to set up the Englishman for the game-winner.
The noise erupting from the stadium was deafening and well-deserved given what had just taken place.
One patch of wet grass is all that made the difference on this wet night in Moscow from Champions League glory to the current state of the club.
In their first-ever final, Chelsea drew their English rival Manchester United in what had the kind of implications behind that only occur in the movies. Chelsea wanted to establish themselves as the true champions of England and the world, while United were looking to rescue that title which had been in question over the past few seasons.
The two met in a hotly contested bout, were tensions were at an all-time high. Neither side was able to firmly establish control, with Cristiano Ronaldo’s first half header being cancelled out by a Lampard score just before the break.
After extra time was not enough to separate the two, the match went to penalties and we all know what happened there.
It is interesting to think where this club would be now if it were not for the misfortune of that one John Terry moment. Would the instability they have no still occur with Roman’s insatiable pursuit of the title being satisfied? The effects of that game still echo today.
It may have been a draw and knocked Chelsea out of the Champions League that season, but I still contend that it is one of the clubs greatest performances ever in the competition. The Barcelona team we all know today, started on this night, as they were more than fortunate to advance to the Champions League final on the way to their treble season.
Chelsea had done what no one else had on the season, held the Catalans scoreless at Camp Nou in the first leg. Their prospects of moving on to their second straight final were high and were even more so when Essien scored a wonder strike in the ninth minute at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea played a “park the bus” mentality superbly, frustrating Barca and not allowing them any of the easy passes they make into the box. Rarely did they ever look to threaten the Chelsea goal as the Blue’s dared them to shoot from the outside.
However, fortune quickly turned as four times the hosts were denied what should have been penalties from handballs and fouls in the box.
As it always happens, it came back to hurt the Blues with an Iniesta goal at the death to send Barcelona through on their remarkable season.
For me, this was one of the finest performances I had ever seen them play and still is the most trouble Pep Guardiola has ever had in beating a team.
It always seems Chelsea and Liverpool in Europe give some of the best and most memorable matches the tournament has. The two sides, representing the class and egoism of the south and the rugged blue collar worker of the North clashed on this April day, with Chelsea victorious to advance to their first ever Champions League final.
It was the kind of play we, as Chelsea fans, came to love, with goals from the two who have shaped the club more over the past decade than any other player.
Didier Drogba was in fine form and at the top of his game, grabbing the early lead securing the win in extra time. Like he has done so many times before, Lampard’s coolness from the spot cancelled out a Torres goal for the Reds.
It may not have the kind of total domination or even exactness in its play as some of these others, but it was vintage Chelsea—big, tough, bruising play that wears down their opponents and wills themselves to victory.
Did you expect anything else? I know it is fresh in all our minds so doesn’t have the certain nostalgic values as the others, but actually it does—more so. This was the kind of play we have all fallen in love with over the past decade of being fans, and it paid off in their biggest win on the season and perhaps the clubs history.
Chelsea erased a 3-1 deficit at Stamford Bridge, with the brilliant display of athleticism, grit, determination and pride.
A brilliant header from Drogba got the scoring underway and John Terry helped the cuase with a header of his own. But what really made this a brilliant display was when Napoli scored and many had written Chelsea’s hopes off, the Blues kept pushing.
A Lampard penalty kept them in it and an Ivanovich strike in extra time gave them the improbable 4-1 win.
Forget about all the off-field issues involving Andre Villas-Boas. Forget about the schism in the clubhouse. And forget about the attempt by the media to forge a false discord. This game was all about the players playing and winning for themselves, the fans and the club.
The Champions League has been the one trophy the Blues have been unable to win, but it is also the one where they turn in some of their best performances. In the short time they have been involved in the competition, they have made their mark, by consistently turning in entertaining and high-quality displays of football.
So what matches would you rank in their top 10 of all time? Was there any that I missed?
As always, please leave your comments below and thanks for reading!
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