What a rollercoaster ride it’s been as a Chelsea fan in this year’s Champions League!
Firstly Chelsea struggled to qualify from what looked a pretty easy group, In the last but one game the blues squandered a 1-0 lead in Germany to lose 2-1 to Bayer Leverkusen, conceding a 90th minute goal! So after 5 games with one game left Group E looked so.
This meant Chelsea required at the very least a clean sheet against Valencia and preferably a win! Drogba was imperious in the game and Chelsea won the game 3-0. Not only did Chelsea qualify but Bayer Leverkusen failed to beat Gent which meant the team qualified as group winners! Winning the group meant the club wouldn’t have to face any group winners in the first stage of the knockout competition a distinct advantage.
The first round draw gave pitted Chelsea against Napoli, in the first leg at the Stadio San Paolo Juan Mata gave the blues a 1-0 lead and all looked to be going well. But three goals by Valencia gave the Spaniards a 3-1 victory, it could have been worse if it wasn’t for Ashley Cole’s goal line clearance in the games closing minutes.
The home leg against Valencia was now a daunting prospect and things seemed to get worse when Chelsea’s owner, Roman Abramovich Decided to sack the manage Andre Villa-Boas and appoint Roberto di Matteo until the end of the season.
The second leg game at Stamford Bridge was to be another game of high drama, in the first half against the run of play; Didier Drogba put his team in the lead.
Three minutes in to the second half captain John Terry made it 2-0, but then Gokhan Inler made it 2-1. With Chelsea now pressing for that third goal Andrea Dossena handled the ball in the box and the referee award a penalty which Frank Lampard scored. The tie was now finely balanced whoever scored next was probably through to the last 16, both sides had chances but at full time the game was 3-1, the exact opposite of the first leg, now there was extra time.
Towards the end of the first half of extra time Goran Ivanovic scored to put Chelsea 4-1 up and potentially into the last 16. The remaining 15 minutes where very nervous as Chelsea fans were all too aware that one goal from Valencia would send them through on the away-goals rule. But that was not to be and Chelsea where into the last 16, 5-4 on aggregate.
Next up was Benfica and in Lisbon, not games of particular high drama. Salomon Kalou scored a late goal to give Chelsea a foot in the last eight and in the second leg at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea won 2-1 to set up a semi-final against Barcelona.
In the first leg against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge Chelsea conceded 70% of the possession to the visitors, but somehow managed to come out 1-0 winners, thanks one perfect move in which Frank Lampard, released Ramires to run with the ball and serve up the perfect cross for Didier Drogba to shoot past Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes. In fact during the match Chelsea had had just two shots on target to Barcelona’s 15 a pattern that was going to be repeated more than once. Stopping the Catalan’s scoring an away goal was to prove crucial.
The return leg in the Nou Camp is a lesson in how to do everything possible to make victory a game difficult for yourself.
After just 12 minutes Gary Cahill limps off injured to be replaced by Jose Bosingwa, not the most reliable of defenders, a 29-year-old who still has a lot to learn about his craft, but in the end Cahill’s injury is just a bit of bad luck!
However, after 35 minutes Sergio Busquets put Barcelona one up to level the tie on aggregate.
And then on 37 minutes Captain John Terry in a ridiculous off the ball incident get’s himself sent off for kneeing Alexis Sanchez in the back, a harsh decision by the referee, but Terry needlessly gave the referee a decision to make and the referee decided red!
No team wants to be a player down at the Nou Camp and worse was to come 7 minutes later when Andres Iniesta put Barcelona 2 up! At this point you couldn’t really see a way through for Chelsea, their looking distinctly dead and buried!
Suddenly a perfect Frank Lampard’s through-ball gave Ramires an opportunity he did not waste, chipping Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes from 15 yards and levelling the scores on aggregate 2-2 which if it stayed that way meant Chelsea would qualify on the away goals rule.
But Chelsea couldn’t help themselves, early in the second half Didier Drogba tripped Cesc Fabregas in the box and the referee awarded a penalty, but Lionel Messi spurned the chance to put the tie beyond Chelsea by thumping his spot kick against the crossbar.
For the next 40 odd minutes Chelsea mounted an outstanding defensive display and in injury time Fernando Torres ran clear and rounded Victor Valdes to make the score at the Nou Camp 2-2 and secure Chelsea a spot in the final against Bayern Munich!
During the game Barcelona had 73% of the possession and 14 shot’s on target whilst Chelsea had just 3, Barcelona’s profligacy and lack of invention cost them dear.
A few interesting facts from the game:
- Chelsea are now unbeaten in their last four matches at the Nou Camp, having drawn all of them.
- Lionel Messi remains without a goal against Chelsea in eight matches, the most games he has played against a single opponent without a goal.
- Fernando Torres becomes the 19th player in Champions League history to score against Real Madrid and Barcelona. He is the first Spaniard to do so.
So next up the final at the Allianz Arena, the home of Bayern Munich. Much like the games against Barcelona, this was to be defence against attach with Bayern Munich’s goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, being little more than a spectator for much of the game.
Hearts where in the mouths of Chelsea fans when Franck Ribery hits the back of the net after 53 minutes, only for the goal to be ruled offside, but in the 83rd minute the inevitable Bayern goal came, Thomas Mueller headed into the ground and the ball bounced up and over the helpless Petr Chec. It again appeared all over for the London club, but with just minutes remaining Didier Drogba’s bullet header sent the final into extra time.
Within moments of the start of extra time again Chelsea decide to hand the match to their opponents on a plate, Didier Drogba brought down Franck Ribery in the box and Bayern where awarded a penalty.
The drama was far from over as Petr Cech saved Arjen Robben’s penalty and once again Chelsea where reprieved. Bayern had more chances but as throughout the game they failed to capitalise. So the game was to de decided on penalties.
First up Philip Lahm, scores 1-0 Bayern, next up Juan Mata, Manuel Neuer saves and it remains 1-0 to Bayern and every Chelsea fan is thinking their record in penalties just isn’t too good, just 2 success out of the last 9 penalty shoot outs.
Then, Mario Gomez scores, 2-0 to Bayern, David Luiz scores, 2-1 to Bayern, Manuel Neuer scores 3-1 to Bayern and I’m now thinking are the German’s going to miss? This isn’t going well.
Frank Lampard scores, 3-2 to Bayern, Ivica Olic’s penalty is saved by Petr Cech, now it’s still 3-2 to Bayern, Ashley Cole scores to level the shoot out at 3-3, Then Bastian Schweinsteiger’s penalty is saved by Petr Cech.
Now it’s advantage Chelsea, this penalty could be Didier Drogba last kick of the ball as a Chelsea Player, of course we know the story, Drogba scores and Chelsea are Champions of Europe, for the first time in their history and the first London club to win the trophy, we’re ecstatic.
Like Barcelona, Bayern had been wasteful scoring once from 34 shots, whilst Chelsea had managed one from just nine!
Gary Neville said it was in the stars and really who’s going to argue?