On this day 3 years ago, Chelsea faced the formidable Bayern Munich in the Champions League final. It was the moment all Chelsea fans had been waiting for. Another shot at winning Europe’s most prestigious prize after their heartbreak in Moscow in 2008. This was a defining moment for English football in Europe. An English side has not reached a final since and many argue that they now face a real struggle to compete with the rest of Europe’s elite.
This week we take a look at what made Chelsea’s campaign so successful and relive some of the greatest moments from their campaign.
Chelsea managed to take a lot of big scalps on their route to Munich, the most memorable of them being their enthralling tie against Barcelona. Didier Drogba scored the only goal in the first leg at Stamford Bridge, giving the blues a slim 1-0 advantage when they went to the Nou Camp. Barcelona opened the scoring through Sergio Busquets after 35 minutes. The tie was now even, but things were about to get a lot worse for Chelsea just minutes after Busquet’s goal, as their captain was sent off for a bad tackle on Alexis Sanchez. As if losing John Terry wasn’t bad enough, just 6 minutes later Barcelona scored again, with Iniesta grabbing the goal.
It was looking extremely bleak for the London club at this point but against all odds Chelsea managed to pull a goal back on the stroke of half time, as Lampard assisted Ramires in scoring a sensational chip to give his side the aggregate lead on away goals. The second half began and Chelsea faced an onslaught from a strong Barcelona side. Even though they were down to 10 men, they defended valiantly and as time was almost up, Barcelona were caught short at the back. Ashley Cole cleared the ball up field and Fernando Torres had the entire half to himself to cooly take the ball past Victor Valdes and slot it into an empty net. Chelsea were heading to the final in Munich.
When the final came around, the game was, in truth, rather disappointing as Bayern Munich struggled to break down a resolute Chelsea defence. 7 minutes from time, however, Chelsea could keep Bayern out no more and Thomas Mueller broke the deadlock a powerful headed effort. Chelsea had fielded numerous players with a wealth of experience in big games and this ultimately contributed to their success. The squad included veterans such as Petr Cech, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard. John Terry was not able to feature as he was suspended following his sending off against Barcelona. Chelsea’s saviour was one of their most reliable and consistent performers over the years: the one and only Drogba. As if Didier Drogba wasn’t already a Chelsea legend, he elevated himself even further when he scored a thumping equalising header in the 88th minute of the game, just minutes before their Champions League dream was about to be over.
The game went to extra time and things were about to get even more dramatic. Munich were awarded a penalty in extra time as Didier Drogba fouled Franck Ribery. He had gone from hero to villain in a matter of minutes and it looked as though Chelsea were about to have yet another mountain to climb. Petr Cech had other ideas however, as he saved the penalty from Arjen Robben and saved his team from having a come from a goal behind yet again. Extra time played out in an expected nervy fashion until there was no other choice but penalties. Chelsea edged Bayern in the shootout and it was again Chelsea’s veteran’s who were the standout performers. Lampard and Cole both scored penalties, with Cech crucially saving two penalties from the German team. To cap off their efforts, Drogba scored the winning penalty to finally bring the Champion’s League trophy back to Stamford Bridge. The trophy that had eluded Roman Abramovich for so many years was finally his. Suddenly the heartbreak of Moscow in 2008 didn’t matter anymore. John Terry’s slip was just a distant memory.
It seems Chelsea’s old guard continually helped them throughout the tournament. With such a great wealth of big game experience from the likes of Terry, Lampard, Cole, Drogba and Cech, they managed to drag their team over the line to get their hands on the Champions League trophy. Chelsea’s never say die attitude also helped them in both the semi final and the final as extremely late goals were scored, with Drogba’s late goal going down in Chelsea’s history. The question has to be ask then – why have we not seen an English club be successful since? Are English clubs no experienced enough? Do they have the wrong attitude?
If we take Chelsea’s most recent campaign as an example, they were knocked out by Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 round of the competition. Their squad has changed quite a bit. They no longer have Lampard or Cole, Drogba is a little past his best, and Cech has seen his first team place be taken by Thibaut Courtois. Now there is no denying Chelsea are a team of the highest quality – just look at their league campaign – but they have lost a lot of experienced older players who have that extra bit of composure and nerve when it comes to the big occasions. Also in their game against PSG, they were the ones who conceded late goals, one in normal time as well as one in extra time.
It seems as though Chelsea’s never say die attitude is not as strong as it was 3 years ago, with PSG being the team who don’t give up until the final whistle. Many also argue that Mourinho, as a manager, plays far too defensively, even at home. This means that Chelsea almost invite teams onto them rather than relentlessly attacking the opposition. It’s also important to remember that PSG were down to 10 men for the majority of the game, yet Chelsea still struggled.
Hopefully Chelsea’s domination in the Premier League will give them confidence to flourish in Europe next season. Although Barcelona and Juventus look a cut above the rest in Europe, the plight of English teams should not be pitied. With Arsenal looking stronger than they have in a long time this season, and Manchester City and Chelsea guaranteed to spend big in the summer, there is a lot to be hopeful for in next season’s Champion’s League.
BY - Owen Holland
19 May 2015