Five, Ten, Fifteen
feature Fri 19 May 2017
In our feature recalling events from three selected seasons in the recent past, we feature two immensely historic Chelsea matches which took place on this very day…
19 May is without doubt a date of momentous significance in the history of Chelsea Football Club, not only but most significantly because of the events five years ago today in Bavaria, Germany.
Our team, playing the biggest club game in the world, were faced with the immense challenge of beating the German champions Bayern Munich, not only in their own city but in their own stadium, as they made perfectly clear to us with their pre-match display also claiming the Champions League trophy as theirs. It did not, however, go to their plan.
The key events of the 2012 Champions League final hardly need retelling here in great detail – the conceding of what most expected to be the deciding goal inside the final 10 minutes of normal time, the late Didier Drogba equaliser, Petr Cech saving a penalty struck by his former team-mate Arjen Robben and then the climax of the penalty shoot-out when despite not converting our first, the Blues went ahead thanks to two magnificent Cech saves, and then, of course, Drogba wrapping it up with what in the end proved not to be his final Chelsea kick, but one we all believed it was at the time. Their city, their stadium, our trophy.
Away from the headline moments, manager and cup final hero himself in his playing days Roberto Di Matteo had sprung a surprise by giving full-back Ryan Bertrand his Champions League debut as a wide midfielder in front of Ashley Cole, to deal with Bayern’s strength down that flank.
‘I did my best to put everything to the back of my mind and take it as another game, but I had all these images flashing through my head of where I have come from and thinking about doing myself justice,' Bertrand said afterwards.
‘It feels great,’ was Di Matteo’s joyous reaction to the against-the-odds triumph. ‘I'm pleased for the players. They've worked so hard over the years to win it, four years ago they had a painful experience and tonight we are on the other hand.’
One of the players who had endured so much heartache in the Champions League before 2012 was the man who captained the team on the night, Frank Lampard.
'It's very difficult to put into words,’ was his initial reaction. ‘If you win it regularly, as Barcelona do, I'm sure it still feels great. But to come so close so many times and then to win it feels incredible, you should have seen the dressing room, it was just amazing.
'In football terms this is the one we wanted to win, it's the biggest club competition in the world and we've won it tonight. Barcelona was tough as well, but after the situation we were in at the start of the season nobody would have expected this which makes it even more incredible.
'It's the most amazing feeling in football. We've been very close before and reached quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final, so the fact we've come so close makes it all the more exciting. To win on penalties against a German team, a lot of people spoke about it before the game because we never do it, but we dug in, showed spirit which we've done throughout the competition and we're champions.'
Chelsea had become the first and to date only London club to be crowned champions of Europe.
Any FA Cup final is special and one in which you face and beat the might of Manchester United has extra significance, but the 2007 showpiece was given even more appeal by being the first at the sparkling and immense new Wembley Stadium, so long in gestation. The date of the game was 19 May too.
It had not been lost on Chelsea either that we won the last final before the old national stadium had been knocked down, so the chance to make a unique piece of history was there for the taking – and after two years as league champions, Jose Mourinho’s team had only just relinquished that crown to Alex Ferguson’s United. This was the chance for some revenge.
The match that Saturday afternoon was very tactical and slow in tempo. The first half passed with few chances but Chelsea were the more adventurous. Arjen Robben, recently back from injury, replaced Joe Cole, who had played in pain, for the second period.
Petr Cech did have to save from Rooney after half-time but Robben began to make his presence felt, while Cristiano Ronaldo was being shackled by his compatriot Paulo Ferreira who was having an excellent game, as was young John Mikel Obi in the middle.
Into extra time the goalless game went, during which Cech denied Rooney once more and Drogba went close with a free-kick. Instead the Ivorian’s big moment came in open play with five minute to go before a penalty shoot-out would be needed.
Taking Mikel's pass, Drogba played a one-two with Lampard and ran in behind Rio Ferdinand to chip past the advancing Edwin van der Sar. It was one more huge contribution from two big players at the end of a very long season. Drogba had scored his 33rd goal of 2006/07 and Chelsea had our second trophy, having already won the League Cup.
‘It was not easy. It was a game when you had to think hard all the time,’ said Mourinho afterwards. ‘We did not give them the game they expected. But I believe we had the game under control the whole time. I do not want to separate any of my players. But Didier is fantastic.’
In stark contrast to 2012 and 2007, this week in 2002 has very few Chelsea tales to tell. With a World Cup in the far east on the horizon, the domestic season was already wrapped up, with Claudio Ranieri’s Blues having even competed in the FA Cup final before completing our league fixture schedule. So it was to the internationals and transfer rumours attention turned and reigning world champions France, with Marcel Desailly, Frank Leboeuf and Manu Petit in their side, lost a warm-up game against Belgium on home soil, a foretaste of their ignominious defence of the World Cup when they reached Korea. There they finished bottom of their group.
Mario Stanic and Celestine Babayaro were named in the Croatia and Nigeria squads, giving Chelsea five World Cup participants but they did not make the knockout stages either.
Back home, Geremi was intriguingly named in the press as a transfer target, a year before he did become a Chelsea player after the ownership of the club changed hands. Instead, Spanish midfielder Enrique De Lucas signed later in the month.