One of a kind
Inside Blue Tue 12 Sep 2017
Qarabag are the first-ever Azerbaijani visitors to Stamford Bridge, but which other clubs are the only ones from their country to have faced Chelsea competitively?
The 26-time Cypriot champions – a national record – were drawn alongside the Blues in Group D of the 2009/10 Champions League. With former Chelsea midfielder Nuno Morais at the heart of their team, they put in a good showing in the first game in Cyprus, some stubborn defending keeping the score down to 1-0 as Nicolas Anelka's first-half goal gave us the win. APOEL did even better on their visit to Stamford Bridge, in the last round of group fixtures, although it must be said, that 2-2 draw was against a much-changed Chelsea side, with our position at the top of the table already guaranteed as we ended undefeated. APOEL took a shock early lead through Marcin Zewlakow, before Michael Essien (pictured above) and Didier Drogba put us ahead, only for APOEL's Nenad Mirosavljevic to grab an equaliser with three minutes remaining.
The only Latvian side we have played in Europe were also our first-ever opponents in the Champions League. Our debut campaign in that competition started in 1999/00 with a two-legged qualification play-off against the Riga-based club, starting with the first leg at Stamford Bridge. Skonto certainly made us work hard for our opening victory despite having a man sent off in the first half, their the 10 men holding on bravely until two goals in as many minutes from Celestine Babayaro and Gus Poyet gave us the lead with 13 minutes left on the clock. Chris Sutton (pictured above) added the icing on the cake late on in a 3-0 win. With our progress virtually secured, the return match in Latvia saw Gianluca Vialli's Chelsea put in a pragmatic, if uneventful, performance to secure our place in the group stage with a 0-0 draw, memorable only for the Blues debut of Carlo Cudicini, who replaced Ed de Goey in goal for the last 10 minutes.
Quite possibly the smallest club ever to take on Chelsea, or compete in European competition, amateur side Jeunesse Hautcharage were our opponents in the first round of the 1971/72 Cup Winners' Cup after a shock triumph in Luxembourg's domestic competition. They couldn't have asked for a much tougher draw, as we were the holders at the time, having defeated Real Madrid in the previous season's final to lift our first European silverware. Considering Jeunesse counted a schoolboy, a 40-year-old striker and a one-armed winger in their team, our 8-0 victory in Luxembourg shouldn't have come as too much of a surprise, as Peter Osgood hit a hat-trick alongside a Peter Houseman brace and goals by John Hollins, Tommy Baldwin (pictured above) and David Webb. We were even more ruthless at Stamford Bridge, winning 13-0. This time Osgood got five, but still lost his £5-bet with goalkeeper Peter Bonetti after boasting before the game he would get six. Also on the score sheet were Alan Hudson, Hollins, Webb, Ron Harris, Houseman and Baldwin, the last of those getting a hat-trick of his own, as we racked up our biggest-ever win in any competition and set a new UEFA record with the 21-0 aggregate score line.
The core of the side which would go on to claim Chelsea's first European triumph in the Cup Winners' Cup in 1971 cut their teeth in continental football by competing in the now-defunct Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. Our third and final entry into the competition came in the 1968/69 season, when we were paired with Scottish side Greenock Morton in the first round. We made short work of Greenock at Stamford Bridge, with Peter Osgood (pictured above), Alan Birchenall, Charlie Cooke, John Boyle and John Hollins getting a goal each in a 5-0 win. We then travelled north across the border for our shortest-ever away trip in European competition, but found things much harder in the Scottish lowlands. Despite taking an early lead through Tommy Baldwin, a flurry of quick goals saw us go 3-1 down in the first half, before Birchenall, Peter Houseman and Bobby Tambling found the net to make it 4-3 on the night and 9-3 on aggregate.
The most recent opponent on this list, Maribor were our opponents in Group G of the 2014/15 Champions League. We faced the Slovenians twice in quick succession, resting players on both occasions as another undefeated group-stage campaign saw us comfortably top the table. The first meeting was at Stamford Bridge as Eden Hazard and Didier Drogba both scored from the penalty spot, with the Belgian getting a second in injury time as well as Loic Remy and John Terry's (pictured above) strikes, and an own goal from Maribor's Marko Suler, to give us a 6-0 win. It was also Dominic Solanke's one and only senior appearance for the Blues. Our only trip to Slovenia proved problematic, though, when we went behind to Agim Ibraimi's goal. Nemanja Matic equalised, but Hazard saw his late penalty saved by goalkeeper Jasmin Handanovic as we had to settle for a draw.