After the result of round of 16 first league at Sao Paolo, no one had thought that Chelsea would progress to quarter-final of such a big tournament in Europe. But, Roberto Di Matteo, after taking the charge as blues manager in the mean time between 1st and 2nd leg match of round of 16, astonished the football world with a dramatical hard-fought 4-1 victory at Stamford Bridge. The Italian interim manager has played the crucial role in taking the London side to the grand finale of the biggest competition in Europe.
Chelsea was drawn with Spanish side Valencia, German side Bayer Leverkusen and Belgian side Genk in the group stage of the tournament(Group E). By looking at the draw, it was though that Chelsea would easily reach the next round with either Valencia or Leverkusen. But, the opponents made the task tough for the English side. Chelsea fought very hard to progress to the next round.
Chelsea won the first match of the tournament at Stamford Bridge, which was played against the German opponent, Levekusen with the score-line of 2-0. Michael Ballack returned to London for the 1st time since leaving Chelsea on 2010. In their second match of the tournament at Estadio de Mestalla,Valencia, the advantage of blues from Frank Lampard’s 56th minute goal was cancelled out by 87th minute Roberto Soldado’s penalty.
In the next match, which was played against Genk, Chelsea thrashed the Belgian champions with the score of 5-0. Raul Meireles’s opener in the 8th minute was followed by Fernando Torres’s brace inside the first half. Ivanovic and Kalou scored further goals which took Chelsea to the top of the table of their group at the end of round 3. Chelsea travelled to Genk 2 weeks later. In the round 4 match at Cristal Arena, Ramires opened the scoring for blues in the 26th minute. Jelle Vossen scored the goal for Belgium side in the 61st minute just after few minutes when Luiz missed a penalty. No goals were scored in the remaining minutes of play and therefore, Chelsea side retuned to London with the disappointing 1-1 draw.
Then for their next match of the European competition, Chelsea travelled to Germany to face Bayer Leverkusen. Both the teams failed to score in the first half of the game. But, with in the 3 minutes of restart, Didier Drogba broke the dead-lock with a brilliant goal. 25 minutes later, Derdigok equalized for Leverkusen. Freidrich’s header in the injury-time, provided the victory for German side. This win for Leverkusen ensured that they would be progressing to the next stage, whereas Chelsea would have to put up a do-or-die battle against Valencia at Stamford Bridge to progress. In their final match of the group stages, Chelsea went top just within the 3 minutes of play. Ivory Coast’s star Drogba scored for the home side. Ramires added the second in the 22nd minute and once again Drogba scored in the 72nd minute. With the comfortable 3-0 victory at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea booked their place in round of 16 stage of the tournament.
Round of 16 (vs Napoli):
For the First leg match of round of 16, Chelsea travelled to Italy to face the tough opponent, Napoli, without their captain John Terry, who was suffering from injury. The 1st half-an-hour of the game went in favour of the visiting side. Juan Mata scored for the blues in 27th minute. But, Ezequiel Lavezzi equalized for the home side just 12 minutes later. Uruguay striker, Edinson Cavani scored in the injury time of first half to take the score to 2-1. After the 20 minutes of restart, taking advantage of Luiz’s weak header, Cavani provided the width for Lavezzi to shoot towards the post. Lavezzi finished it off brilliantly to make the score as 3-0.
After trailing 1-3 in the 1st leg, Chelsea players were in the position to deliver almost the impossible at London. In the mean time between 1st leg and 2nd leg of round of 16, Chelsea lost a premier league match against West Brom, which proved costly for AVB to loose his job. Chelsea FC’s owner Abramovic sacked AVB and made his assistant Roberto Di Matteo as the care taker for the rest of the season. After taking the charge as Chelsea’s manager, Di Matteo changed his predecessor AVB’s 4-2-1-3 formation to 4-2-3-1, which has worked for him effectively.
In the return leg, surprise awaited for the football fans all over the world. Drogba opened the scoring with an header in the 28th minute from a beautiful Ramires’s pass. First half ended with the score of 1-0. Within the 2 minutes of restart, captain john Terry, who had just recovered from injury, scored from his country mate Frank Lampard’s corner. At this stage of the game Chelsea would be entering into quarter-finals if they just avoid conceding a goal. But, Swiss mid-fielder, Gokham Inler scored for Napoli in the 55th minute which pushed Chelsea, a step-back. However, Lampard’s penalty in the 75th minute took the game to extra-time to decide the winner. In the final minute of 1st half injury time, Ivanovic scored the winner for blues, which took them to the quarter-finals of the tournament; Di Matteo made the impossible possible.
Quarter-Final (vs Benfica):
Chelsea travelled to Lisbon to face the potuguese giants, Benfica in the 1st league of quarter-finals. After the slow first half, Chelsea came up with the attacking play in the second half. Salomon Kalou broke the dead-lock in the 75th minute and this goal was just enough for the blues to put up a win.
With goal advantage, in the return leg at Stamford Bridge, Veteran, Frank Lampard scored from the penalty spot to put Chelsea on top in the 21st minute. Javi Garcia equalized in the 85th minute, which just mean a goal from Benfica in the remaining minutes of play would be taking them to semi-finals. But in the injury time, Raul Meireles scored for Chelsea in the counter-attack to make the aggregate 3-1.
Semi-Final (vs Barcelona):
It was thought that Di Matteo’s tactics have been really put into test when the London side face the mighty Barcelona. But, Di Matteo handled the situation very brilliantly with Catenaccio system of play.
In both the semi-final leagues, Chelsea played with a defensive approach with all its players packed in the back. Chelsea scored 3 times against the catalan side within the span of 6 days; but the stunning fact was all these 3 goals were scored only in the added injury minutes.
In the 1st leg at Stamford Bridge, Drogba scored the winner for the blues from the blistering Ramires’s pass in the injury time of the 1st half. Trailing 0-1 in the 1st leg, the current European champions were in the position to score for sure in the 2nd leg at their home to book a place in the final.
In the second leg at Nou Camp, Chelsea’s defensive approach didn’t provide the space and width for the Barcan players to shoot towards the goal. However in the 35th minute, dead lock was broken for Barcelona through the cool Sergio Busquets’s finish. Dani Alves fed Cuenca outside the box and the Spanish winger went outside the line after cutting the ball to Busquets, who finished coolly. 2 minutes later, further sadness awaited Chelsea. In the 37th minute, Terry was sent off for bringing down Alexis Sanchez near the edge of the box. The condition of Chelsea had become worse, 6 minutes later. In the 43rd minute, Iniesta scored the 2nd goal for the home side. Messi provided a fine touch to the Spaniard and the mid-fielder finish it easily. However, the hero of 1st leg, Ramires, put Chelsea ahead based on away-goal criteria by playing a beautiful 1-2 with Frank Lampard in the injury time of the 1st half. The Catalan side was once again pushed to a position to score to go through to play the final at Munich. One of the rare events in football occurred at Nou Camp in the 53rd minte-3 times FIFA player of the world, Messi, missed a crucial penalty. Barcelona hopes of travelling to Munich finally came to end when Fernando Torres scored the second goal for Chelsea in the injury time of the 2nd half.
Grand Finale (vs Bayern):
Chelsea players will be travelling to Munich on May 19 to battle with the German giants at their home soil for the prestigious crown. Home support for Bayern will be a big set-back for the London side.
By the way, both the finalists have been suffering from suspension worries. Meireles, Ramires, Ivanovic and Terry won’t be available for final for Chelsea whereas, Badstubber, Alaba and Gustavo will be missing for Bayern. Let us hope the grand finale will be bringing lots of enthusiasm and entertainment just like the previous stages of the grand tournament did.