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How The Blues Became Champions of Europe Against All Odds

Updated on October 13, 2015

Chelsea have become the first London club to lift the Champions League trophy. Desire pulled them through in a dramatic season.

The Champions League is a story that has usually held heartbreak for the Blues as the men from London were branded the closest to win it with no medal to show for their efforts. The most recent of these were the 2008 Moscow final against Manchester United and the Barcelona semi-final in 2009. It is the trophy that Roman Abramovich has craved most since buying the club in 2003.


John Terry misses the penalty that could have won Chelsea the Champions League.
John Terry misses the penalty that could have won Chelsea the Champions League.

Moscow 2008

The 2008 final took place in Moscow between Chelsea and Manchester United. After 90 minutes the scores were tied at 1-1 and just before the end of extra time Didier Drogba was red-carded. Penalties were required to decide the winner and this meant that when the fifth penalty taker was needed John Terry stepped up and took the penalty that would have won Chelsea the Champions League. He struck the post and Van Der Sar went on to save an Anelka penalty to deny Chelsea their first Champions League success.

Semi-Final 2009

The semi-final second leg where Chelsea faced Barcelona at Stamford Bridge is mostly known for its infamous display of controversial refereeing by Tom Henning. Chelsea held Barcelona to a 0-0 draw at the Camp Nou in the first leg and a final place in Rome was on the line. Essien gave Chelsea the lead inside 10 minutes and after that Chelsea were the dominant team. Drogba was tripped twice in the penalty box and there was a clear handball from Pique that even the Barcelona supporters from the upper tier could see that Chelsea were undone a penalty. It seemed like Tom Henning (referee) was the only person in the world who "didn't see" it.

Michael Ballack appeals at Tom Henning for a clear penalty shout
Michael Ballack appeals at Tom Henning for a clear penalty shout

As the game approached full time Chelsea were still on their way to a consecutive final when in the third minute of stoppage time Iniesta scored with Barcelona's first attempt on target. Heartbreak at Stamford Bridge but Chelsea didn't give up and Ballack managed to volley the ball goal bound in the final minute of stoppage. The ball struck a Barcelona arm and unbelievably Chelsea were denied by the referee once more, 5 penalties in total that should have been awarded. This meant Barcelona went through on away goals leaving Chelsea pondering on what could have been. One must wonder if the in-form Chelsea would've gone on to win the title.

Drogba seals a 3-0 win with his second goal against Valencia
Drogba seals a 3-0 win with his second goal against Valencia

Group Stages

Chelsea started their campaign convincingly, beating Leverkusen and Genk at home while taking a point from a draw at Valencia. They stumbled a little with a draw at Genk and when they travelled to Leverkusen, Chelsea needed a win to qualify with one game to play. However Leverkusen managed to surprise Chelsea with a stoppage time winner giving them qualification and leaving both Chelsea and Valencia on 8 points to compete for the final spot in the knock-out rounds. The scene was set at Stamford Bridge and Andre Villas-Boas was under pressure with a bad performance in the domestic league and an exit from the Champions League unacceptable to management and fans alike. Drogba then proved to still be Chelsea's main man with a brace to leapfrog Chelsea into top spot in their group, advancing into the round of 16.

Ivanovic scores the goal that sends Chelsea into the quarter final
Ivanovic scores the goal that sends Chelsea into the quarter final

Round of 16 - Napoli

Chelsea were up against Napoli who saw off Manchester City in their group stages. Juan Mata gave Chelsea the important away goal but then Napoli pulled off a convincing come back scoring 3 unanswered goals. Chelsea's management had seen enough and Andre Villas-Boas was sacked. Roberto Di Matteo, who was the first team coach, was placed in charge for the rest of the season and his first challenge was to pull off a big win at home. It was the trio of Drogba, Terry and Lampard who provided Chelsea's first 3 goals, but when Napoli were 2-0 down, Inler struck a brilliant goal to give Napoli the advantage once more. Extra time was required when the scores were still at 3-1 and when Ivanovic fired home the fourth, the Chelsea come back was complete.

Raul Meireles scores Chelsea's second goal to seal a 2-1 victory against Benfica
Raul Meireles scores Chelsea's second goal to seal a 2-1 victory against Benfica

Quarter Final - Benfica

The first leg was played at Benfica and Chelsea's dominance paid off after 75 minutes when Ramires and Torres showed great skill losing their markers. Torres managed to find Kalou in the middle for the only goal of the match. The second leg was much like the first with Chelsea holding on to all of the possession. Ashley Cole was fouled in the box and Lampard netted the resulting penalty. Chelsea applied all the pressure and just couldn't manage to finish off a second. Benfica were reduced to ten men before the half and it seemed another semi-final was just minutes away. Benfica did however manage to produce a corner 5 minutes from time and Garcia capitalized on the opportunity. The Stamford Bridge crowd were biting their finger nails as another Benfica strike could've sent Chelsea packing. However a counter-attack from the Blues was finished off by Meireles with a fantastic drive into the top right corner. Chelsea through then to the semi-final where they would face up against the cup holders Barcelona.

Didier Drogba gives Chelsea the lead right on the stroke of half time.
Didier Drogba gives Chelsea the lead right on the stroke of half time.

Semi-Final - Barcelona

The 2009 semi-final left much unfinished business between these 2 sides. Chelsea were given the opportunity to prove themselves first at their home ground. It was a time where everyone felt that history was in the making. Chelsea played much more defensively than the last time these sides met and Barcelona looked attacking throughout the match hitting the post and the crossbar. It was Didier Drogba's winner inspired by a great Ramires run and cross that gave Chelsea the lead on the stroke of half time. The scores remained unchanged and although Chelsea came out as winners, the majority still tipped Barcelona for a spot in the final. It was to be decided at the Nou Camp. Sure enough Busquets made it 1-0 for Barcelona after 35 minutes. Two minutes later the Chelsea captain. John Terry, was red-carded and with their backs against the wall Iniesta scored Barcelona's second to give them the advantage.

Fernando Torres dribbles past Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes to seal Chelsea's spot in the Champions League final
Fernando Torres dribbles past Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes to seal Chelsea's spot in the Champions League final

Right before the half Lampard delivered a superb through ball which Ramires chipped over the keeper with a sublime touch. Chelsea might have hoped to play the second half defending their advantage without Terry at the back but from the restart Drogba tripped Fabregas and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. There was never any doubt about Messi's ability to convert the penalty but miraculously he struck the crossbar and Chelsea breathed yet another sigh of relief. Chelsea managed to keep the score at 2-1 with heroic defending and in the dying minutes a clearance found Fernando Torres, who was the highest player up the field. With only keeper Victor Valdes in front of him he charged up half the pitch and rounded Valdes in apparent ease to sink Barcelona's hopes and give Chelsea a place in the final at Munich with a 2-2 draw.

Didier Drogba equalises with a stunning header
Didier Drogba equalises with a stunning header

Final - Bayern Munich

19 May 2012. The day was here and Chelsea faced the mammoth task of beating Bayern Munich in their own back yard. To make matters worse for the Blues 3 of their key players were banned (Terry, Ramires and Meireles). Bayern were the in-form team, seeing Real Madrid off in the semi-finals and having most of the possession throughout the game. The majority of the opportunities fell Bayern's way and when the match was still goalless with 10 minutes left on the clock, everyone was sure a late goal would clinch the title. It took 83 minutes but Bayern Munich finally managed to find the net with a Muller header and the Chelsea campaign looked to crumble once again. Torres was brought on and managed to win a corner with only 2 minutes until the final whistle. Mata took the corner and up stepped Didier Drogba, who lives for finals, to meet the ball with a thumping header. Once again Chelsea showed that they just would not let go of the Champions League.

Drogba converts the penalty to give Chelsea their first ever Champions League trophy
Drogba converts the penalty to give Chelsea their first ever Champions League trophy

The adrenalin was pumping but the time was over and extra time was needed. Drogba then clumsily challenged Ribery in the box and conceded a really soft penalty. Was it not going to be Chelsea's night after all? Arjen Robben, the ex Chelsea man stepped up to take the spot kick but Petr Cech saved brilliantly and the scores were still tied. When the time for penalties came, the ghost of the 2008 final was looming large over the Allianz Arena. Everyone who remembered that night went back in thought as the same run of events were on the cards. Neuer pulled off a great save and when Bayern took their fourth penalty Cech saved to cancel out Neuer's effort. Schweinsteiger was given the task of the fifth and Cech superbly guided it onto the post. Chelsea were one penalty away, but that was the same as they were in Moscow. Only this time Drogba was the fifth penalty taker. He sent Neuer the wrong way and with his last kick for Chelsea won the Champions League.

Never Give Up

There is nothing that could describe that night. Every Chelsea fan knew that it was meant to be. It meant to those veteran players so much to come back from agonising defeats and lift the trophy they so richly deserved. How then did Chelsea manage to win the title? They were almost sent packing in the group stages but they came out to win their last match and go top of the group. The 2 goal deficit against Napoli in the round of 16 made for a dramatic come back in the second leg where extra time was needed. Benfica almost caused an upset when they equalised at Stamford Bridge and needed only one more goal to advance. Luckily for the Blues Meireles sealed it. Then there was the Barcelona match.

Reactions when the last penalty was scored in the final of the Champions League
Reactions when the last penalty was scored in the final of the Champions League

Two goals down at the Camp Nou with 10 men would leave almost no one in doubt of who would progress. Yet Chelsea managed to pull it back and the joy could be seen on the Chelsea faces when Torres equalised in the last minute. The last hurdle was Bayern Munich in Munich. Going down 1-0 to Bayern in their own back yard meant that an enormous task was set if Chelsea still wanted to win. It was yet again Didier Drogba who provided the crucial goal to send it into extra time. When Robben had his penalty saved by Cech, one had to think that a Chelsea win was written in the stars. Even at the penalty stage Chelsea were trailing when Mata's attempt was saved by Neuer but they came back to clinch it. If you consider all the come backs and how close Chelsea were at times to exiting the tournament, you have to admit that this was a fairytale season.

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    • profile image

      Richard-Murray 4 years ago

      @stiggies

      I agree that Drogba had a utilitarian power but that was just him, like Rooney he is that kind of forward, that does it all thus makes the team better. But, nothing is wrong with the finishers like Mario Gomez, Alexandre Pato, or fernando torres, but as fans we must recognize when a forward is a utlitarian or is a goalgetter and all too often we don't

    • CCahill profile image

      CCahill 4 years ago from England

      Still lol, thats persistance, mate even i was so angry at that game!

      I remember the ref for the Euro 2004 game ENG vs POR, Urs Meir.. he got a lot of stick and hate mail and i was one of them, its funny how much you remember a ref when they make such ludicris decisions ;p

    • stiggies profile image
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      Ian Stiglingh 4 years ago from Cape Town

      @Richard

      Drogba was certainly a utility forward. Many judged his performance on goals but a forward has a broader job description.

      @xero37

      After all the heartbreak in the Champions League, I just wanted Chelsea to lift the trophy because the players deserved it so much.

      @CCahill

      I read an article about Tom Henning and it seems like there are still Chelsea fans that send him hate mail and threats. I have never been angrier at anything else than I was after that match.

    • CCahill profile image

      CCahill 4 years ago from England

      The 2009 semi against Barcelona was some pure bullshit and i dont even support Chelsea!

    • xero37 profile image

      xero37 4 years ago

      That Bayern Munich game almost gave me a heart attack. I remember the 2008 match and remembered how heart breaking it was. I could not go through that again lol.

      I was so glad Chelsea pulled it out.

    • profile image

      Richard-Murray 4 years ago

      @Stiggies,

      drogba like Milito is a box to box point man, Rooney can play that position as well, but tends to play with the ball at his feet.

      What knocked me out about peoples analysis of Drogba's contribution is how incorrect they were. Torres is a conventional striker whom you can judge on goal output because that is his game, but Drogba is another sort of forward.

      If anyone consider's drogba's ability to hold up play and lay if off to others, who scored goals, his defensive headers from corners and free kicks, and then add his goal tally, Drogba did way more than most forwards. Drogba's defensive and offesnive contribution combined is far more than most forwards. How often did he alleviate pressure on Chelsea by holding up play. Drogba redefined the forward role in my view, especially the point man role and many clubs have yet to rear players that way.

    • stiggies profile image
      Author

      Ian Stiglingh 4 years ago from Cape Town

      I agree with you. Drogba deserves to be in there. He might not have broken records on his goal tally but he did score some crucial goals.

    • profile image

      Richard-Murray 4 years ago

      I remember that match so well, thinking this is it for Drogba, and he got the header from mata for the draw and gets the final kick to win it all. Magic. The only thing I regret is he doesnt get to be in the club world cup. It was a great run. When I look at QPR, MAn City, PSG they are all trying to replicate Chelsea but trying to do it much later than Chelsea with new rules set up.