Five, Ten, Fifteen

In our latest look at events from five, 10 and 15 years ago, a managerial departure, a tense European night and the restoring of normal service were the stories of the time...


FIVE

A sequence of results that left the Blues outside the top four in 2012 and teetering in two cup competitions culminated in Andre Villas-Boas losing his job. His final game was a defeat away at West Bromwich Albion.

The Blues had won just one of our previous six matches going into the fixture at the Hawthorns and Gareth McAuley’s late strike, the only goal of the game, condemned us to another reverse.

Daniel Sturridge, Gary Cahill and Juan Mata all went close before the break, and Sturridge then passed up another good opportunity shortly after half-time.

The hosts turned the screw as the contest progressed and eventually won it after we failed to clear a corner.

It was our first league defeat against the Baggies since 1979 and Villas-Boas was dismissed, with his assistant Roberto Di Matteo placed in charge until the end of the season.

Di Matteo and the Chelsea players were quickly into action. On the Tuesday they were at Birmingham for an FA Cup replay against the Championship side and the Blues of London prevailed over the Blues of the second city.

It need a good Petr Cech save to keep the game scoreless at half-time but we kicked for the quarter-finals after the break.

Juan Mata scored from close range and Raul Meireles netted an absolute screamer. We could even afford a missed penalty – Mata the culprit as he had been in the first game – as we moved safely through to play Leicester in the next round. Also on the horizon was a Champions League second leg at home to Napoli, with a 3-1 deficit to overturn. 
 

TEN

The 2007 League Cup was now safely in the trophy cabinet so Jose Mourinho’s team could concentrate on challenging in three other competitions. In the Champions League he welcomed his former club Porto to the Bridge with Chelsea seemingly well-positioned following a 1-1 draw in Portugal. But we would be strongly tested.   

Ricardo Quaresma, later to join us on loan, scored on the break in the first half and we were still on our way out of the competition at half-time. Arjen Robben tied up the tie early in the second half with a long-range shot the goalie allowed to squirm through his hands. It remained tense with the next goal standing every chance of being the killer. It was delivered in Chelsea's favour by the left boot of Michael Ballack who volleyed in one of his best goals for the club. 

'In the end we deserved to win,' summed up Robben. 'The spirit has always been good in the team so we kept going with a lot of confidence and that is why we won.'

Next in the Champions League would be Valencia.
 

FIFTEEN

It was double derby delight for the Blues this week in 2002 with SW6 pride taken first as Fulham were despatched, before a very famous and satisfying afternoon at Spurs.

At Stamford Bridge in a Wednesday night league game, Mario Melchiot cut inside early on and beat Edwin van der Sar, but Fulham equalised only a minute later from the penalty spot. Eidur Gudjohnsen made it 2-1 by half-time (from a pass from Gianfranco Zola who was selected in midfield by Claudio Ranieri) but Louis Saha netted his second and it needed a Mikael Forssell goal inside the final 10 minutes, his eighth from the bench that seasons, for all three points.

Come the weekend we were back at White Hart Lane where not long before a mighty unbeaten run against Tottenham had come to a shuddering end with a big League Cup semi-final defeat.

No such mistake was to be made in this FA Cup quarter-final. William Gallas, with one of his trademark poacher’s goals grabbed the lead with barely 10 minutes played and Gudjohnsen from a fine Graeme Le Saux pass doubled the lead after half-time. 

It was Le Saux himself (later dismissed following a foul on Mauricio Tarrico) who made it 3-0 after Tim Sherwood dawdled on the ball and Gudjohnsen added the coup de grace. 4-0. ‘Normal service is resumed’ sang the away support joyfully, elevating the game to be one of those that would forever be known by a special name.

Three days later Spurs had a league date against us at the Bridge. To be continued…!