Chelsea FC: The 15 Greatest Moments of the Roman Abramovich Era
Ever since the morally questionable Russian billionaire, Roman Abramovich, took over the financially struggling glamour club from West London, Chelsea have undoubtedly enjoyed the most successful period in their 106-year history.
Chelsea won the league title for the first time in 50 years in the second season of Abramovich's reign and they would go on to capture the most prestigious prize in English football on two more occasions.
On top of their three Premier division titles, the Blues have also won the League Cup twice and an incredible three FA Cup triumphs in four years.
Chelsea have been inches away from winning the Champions League and as well as their agonizing Final defeat in 2008, Abramovich's men have been beaten semifinalists on four separate occasions.
On top of the success, there is no doubt that the Russian's time at Stamford Bridge has been marred with controversy with the club going through six full-time managers in eight years.
Whether the club is flying high or going through a bad patch, it has never been dull for a Chelsea fan in the Abramovich era and next season looks set to be no different with world-renowned stars such as Kaka and Sneijder already being linked to the club.
Love him or hate him, there is no denying that Abramovich's millions have had a huge part to play in the rise of Chelsea and without the football-mad oligarch, we would not have enjoyed so many exciting and emotional moments.
The following is my attempt to document the 15 greatest moments in Chelsea's history since June 2003 when Roman Abramovich first became a household name in world football.
15. Jose Mourinho's 1st Press Conference as Chelsea Manager
When Jose Mourinho arrived at the club in the summer of 2004, it quickly became apparent that great things were in Chelsea's future.
Mourinho possessed the confidence and the swagger associated with success and he could back it up with an impressive track record that included a Champions League with Porto.
When the Portuguese mastermind walked into his first press conference as Chelsea manager, he immediately made headlines by labeling himself the "Special One."
Mourinho's time at Chelsea was indeed special and if he had not fallen out with Abramovich, an unstoppable dynasty could have been formed.
This was Jose Mourinho at his charismatic best; it immediately won over the Chelsea fans that were desperate for success.
14. Eidur Gudjohnsen's Hat-Trick Against Blackburn
Eidur Gudjohnsen was a club legend whose strike partnership with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink helped to keep Chelsea in the top half of the table before Abramovich's arrival.
His footballing brain and passing vision were second to none and he scored over 50 goals in his time at the Bridge.
However, the one achievement that he had never accomplished was to score a hat-trick in senior football in any competition, for any club.
Until, that is, Chelsea clashed with Blackburn just as Mourinho's men were hitting their stride in the 2004-05 season.
Eidur Gudjohnsen scored three out of the four goals after Frank Lampard conceded the opportunity to score from the penalty spot.
It was an indication of how high the team spirit was at that time and it was the highlight in the Chelsea career of the Icelandic forward.
13. Michael Essien's Wonder Goal Against Arsenal
Jose Mourinho accomplished his goal of turning Stamford Bridge into a fortress and the "Special One" never lost a home league match for Chelsea.
The eventual unbeaten run stretched to 86 league matches but it would have been cut short if it were not for Michael Essien.
The Ghanaian midfield enforcer can be "hit and miss" with his shooting but his effort from distance against Arsenal was right on the money and it prevented the Gunners from snatching away Chelsea's home record.
The celebrations that followed this late equalizer showed how important the streak was to the players and it will go down as one of the greatest goals in Premier League history.
12. Alex's Thunderous Free Kick Against Liverpool
Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
One of the greatest matches of the Abramovich era was the thrilling 4-4 Champions League quarterfinal second-leg tie with Liverpool.
Chelsea did have a 3-1 away advantage going into the game but it did not stop the Reds from creating some nervy moments and at one stage it was not certain that Chelsea would progress.
But then Alex stepped up to take a long-range free kick and his shot rocketed into the net, stunning Liverpool fans and players alike.
It changed the momentum of the tie and was crucial in Chelsea's progression to the next round.
But it was also special in the way that it gave everyone in the ground of a Chelsea persuasion, particularly the players, a much-needed boost.
11. Michael Essien's Stunning Volley Against Barcelona
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Michael Essien contributed to another wonderful moment when he smashed a left-footed volley into the top corner to give Chelsea the perfect start in their attempt to knock out Barcelona.
It was a goal out of absolutely nothing and nearly ensured that Chelsea reached their second Champions League Final for a rematch with Manchester United.
A late Iniesta heartbreaker and some awful refereeing decisions meant that it was not to be, but another Essien wonder goal made for ecstatic celebrations for Chelsea fans all over the world.
10. Jose Mourinho Shushes the Liverpool Fans in the Carling Cup Final
Mourinho was always controversial and his shushing gesture to the Liverpool fans in the 2005 Carling Cup Final earned him a sending off.
It was Mourinho showing all the arrogance and passion that made him so popular at Chelsea and it always means something to rile the Liverpool fans.
This was during Mourinho's first Final as manager that led to his first trophy after an epic battle with their Merseyside rivals.
It was a sign of things to come and this moment would not be the last time that Mourinho was in trouble with officials in his Chelsea career.
9. Becoming the 1st Team to Win the FA Cup at the New Wembley
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Chelsea had won the last FA Cup Final ever to be held at the old Wembley with a 1-0 win over Aston Villa in 2000.
So it was only fitting that Mourinho's team became the first side to win the coveted trophy at the new Wembley Stadium.
The deadlock was not broken until the 116th minute of a cagey affair with Manchester United when a clever team move put Didier Drogba through on goal.
The Ivory Coast forward poked the ball beyond van der Sar, which caused the blue half of Wembley to erupt in celebration at the club's fourth FA Cup triumph.
This was to be Mourinho's last trophy as Chelsea boss.
8. Joe Cole's Solo Goal That Helped Clinch the Title in 2005-06
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Joe Cole was a special player that possessed talent, skill and a hunger for the game that was unrivaled at one stage.
His Chelsea career had its ups and downs but arguably his greatest moment for the Blues came when the back-to-back champions met with Manchester United at the end of the 2005-06 season.
The title race was done and dusted at this point but Cole's goal epitomized Chelsea's dominance as he waltzed through the United defense embarrassing international-class defenders before slamming the ball home for one of the greatest goals in Chelsea history.
It was icing on the cake at the end of yet another rewarding league season.
7. Claude Makelele's 1st Goal for the Club Against Charlton
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
One of the greatest signings of the Abramovich era was Claude Makelele, whose contribution to Chelsea's success from the holding position should not be underestimated.
The French international revolutionized that position sitting in front of the defense which is now universally known as the "Makelele role."
But while Makelele's tough tackling and reliability were instrumental in the defensive third of the pitch, he was never one prolific in the final third, as evidenced by his long Real Madrid career that passed without a single goal.
But during Chelsea's victory party against Charlton in 2005, the Blues won a penalty and the man who stepped up to take it was Claude Makelele.
This was predetermined by Jose Mourinho ahead of the match as he wanted Makelele to have his moment in the sunshine.
What followed was one of the most heartwarming moments in Chelsea history and another example of the tremendous team spirit that was in place at the club at that time.
Makelele missed his kick in one of the worst penalties ever witnessed at Stamford Bridge but somehow the goalkeeper fumbled it and the Frenchman was able to toe it in on the rebound.
He was mobbed by the entire Chelsea squad including the substitutes and the reserves and no one could watch it without smiling.
6. Wayne Bridge's Champions League Winner Against Arsenal
Before Abramovich, Chelsea were incapable of defeating their North London rivals, Arsenal, no matter how hard they tried.
So when Ranieri's side was drawn against the Gunners in the quarterfinal of the Champions League, few gave Chelsea hope especially after a disappointing 1-1 draw at the Bridge.
Chelsea's miseries were increased when Jose Antonio Reyes gave Arsenal the lead in the return leg at Highbury.
But Frank Lampard was able to score a key equalizer that meant that if Chelsea could just score one more goal, they would be assured of progression.
As the clock ticked down, both teams were preparing for extra time when Wayne Bridge, the left back not renowned for his goal scoring, played a one-two with Gudjohnsen and raced into the area.
The goal opened up for Bridge and he was able to slot it past Lehmann for the victory that gifted Chelsea their first meaningful win over Arsenal in almost a decade.
This was the invincible Arsenal side that did not lose a league match that season and the goal meant so much to everyone involved.
Claudio Ranieri's epic celebrations are legendary and this is what the Italian's time at Chelsea will be remembered for.
5. Frank Lampard's Penalty in the Champions League Semifinal Against Liverpool
In one of the most emotional moments in football history, Frank Lampard showed incredible bottle and courage to slot home a high-pressure penalty that earned Chelsea a place in the Champions League Final, days after the shock of losing his mother.
Lampard has always been a model professional and his commitment to Chelsea football club has never been called into the question.
But everyone would have understood if he had stepped back and allowed someone else to take the spot-kick.
But he was not to be robbed of his moment and the players showed their support for Frank and his family with an emotional embrace by the corner flag.
As well as Frank's personal triumph, this was a sweet retribution for Luis Garcia's "goal that never was" and it finally put to bed the Liverpool heartbreak.
There was not a dry eye in the house that night and Lampard was to go one better by netting in the Final.
4. Chelsea Win Their 1st-Ever League and Cup Double
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
The League and Cup Double is the ultimate sign of domestic dominance and only a few select clubs can boast double-winning sides.
Chelsea were by far and away the most impressive team and fully deserved their League title success and they went on to secure the first double in the club's history by defeating Portsmouth in the Cup Final.
When John Terry lifted the FA Cup, it was a proud moment in Chelsea's long history and the 2009-2010 campaign was arguably the most memorable of the Abramovich era.
This makes the unfair sacking of Carlo Ancelotti even more shocking as he was key to Chelsea's superiority throughout the title race.
3. John Terry's Winner Against Barcelona in 2004-05
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Barcelona had not quite become Europe's greatest side at this point but they were still a force to be reckoned with and Mourinho's history with the Spanish giants made for an extremely interesting matchup from a neutral perspective.
Barcelona possessed a narrow advantage from the fist leg which was quickly cancelled out when Chelsea raced into a three-goal lead in the opening 20 minutes of the second leg.
Two Ronaldinho goals, however, swung the game back to Barcelona's favor until with minutes to go, Chelsea's "Captain Fantastic" rose high to head the ball past Valdes to make it 4-2 on the night and 5-4 on aggregate.
It was a symbol of Chelsea's intent to establish themselves as one of the best sides in Europe and it was the first time that the Blues had the satisfaction of knocking out Barcelona.
2. John Terry Lifts the Premier League Trophy in 2004-05
Ben Radford/Getty Images
John Terry is the most successful Chelsea captain in history and few can claim to have the natural leadership qualities and inspirational commitment as "JT."
The banner reads "Captain, Leader, Legend" and the moment when the homegrown youth product first lifted the Premier League trophy was the moment that Terry carved himself a place in the hearts of all Chelsea fans.
Few current players can hold their heads up high when compared to the warriors of the past and Terry is one of the only modern-day players that would have coped in any era.
Terry lifting the Premier League trophy at the end of Chelsea's centenary season is a moment that will never be forgotten.
1. Frank Lampard Clinches the Title Against Bolton
Frank Lampard has revolutionized the expectation on a goal-scoring midfielder with over 100 Chelsea goals in a decade at the Bridge.
But perhaps his most memorable goal was the second against Bolton that clinched the title once and for all in Mourinho's inaugural season.
Every Chelsea fan remembers where they were when the entire half opened up for Lampard and he went all the way to create a timeless moment.
The emotions of the fans, players and the management combined to make this the greatest moment of the Abramovich era as well as the fact that it meant that Chelsea were finally ready to join the big boys of English football.
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
It has been a roller-coaster ride for the past eight years and there have been some incredible highs as well as some crushing lows.
But I would not have it any other way and while writing this slideshow, I have been revisited by a flood of memories that I, and countless others, experienced in the golden era of this great football club.
Thanks for reading and feel free to comment and express your opinions about any moments that you think I overlooked.