This season has seen many memorable Chelsea games, some for the right reasons, whilst others for the wrong reasons. There have been some high-scoring defeats such as losing to Arsenal 5-3 at home, or losing 4-1 at Liverpool. There have been some drab results, such as draws to Swansea, Norwich, and there have been some morale-crushing losses to QPR and Aston Villa. But on the large part, we have seen some tremendously crucial – albeit low-scoring – victories.
Here, I look back at a remarkable Chelsea season and pick out my top five Chelsea matches of the 2011/2012 season.
5) Chelsea 3-0 Valencia (06/12/11; UCL Group Stage)
Chelsea needed to win this match in order to make sure they did not have to suffer a humiliation by being knocked out of Europe’s elite competition at the earliest possible stages. Results had been shaky prior to the match, with two losses to Liverpool and a loss in the previous group match against Bayer Leverkusen.
Pressure was mounting on then-manager Andre Villas-Boas, and it was his first big test to silence his critics.
To his relief, an early Drogba goal settled the nerves. Ramires got another twenty minutes later, before Drogba wrapped things up with fifteen minutes left on the clock.
With 60% possession and 13 shots, this was a straight-forward win in many ways, but it makes my Top Five simply due to the pressures involved. Had Chelsea not won, they would not have gone on to win the Champions League in such fashion.
4) Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City (12/12/11; EPL)
The next match was a testing match against table-topping City. The Manchester side had just dropped four points from a possible 30 all season, so the momentum was certainly with City. Chelsea were seven points from the top, and so were in desperate need of a win to still be in with a shout.
Things got off to the worst possible start when Balotelli scored after just two minutes, but a Meireles equaliser, followed by a Lampard penalty with six minutes left, ensured the points went to the Blues, and eased the pressure off manager Andre Villas-Boas.
3) Chelsea 1-0 FC Barcelona (18/04/12; UCL SF)
Prior to this match, Barcelona were the clear favourites. Arguably the best team ever to grace the planet, they were expected to progress. Chelsea, however, had not been beaten by Spanish opposition in European competitions for the last 13 years, and that record was to last a little longer.
Barcelona’s 80% possession, 814 passes and 24 shots were not enough to stop Chelsea becoming only the third team to beat them this season. All their counter-attacking fluidity was met by Chelsea’s defensive doggedness, stifling any attack and counter-attacking to great effect.
Didier Drogba scored the precious goal in the first-half stoppage-time he earned rolling around on the floor after Messi was dispossessed and Chelsea launched their typical counter-attack.
2) FC Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea (24/04/12; UCL SF)
It was hard to decide which of the Barcelona legs were more significant, because by keeping Barcelona out in the first-leg, it meant an away goal at the Camp Nou meant a whole lot more. But this second-leg just had to pip it.
Disaster struck in the first half when Busquets rolled the ball into an empty net from five yards out, cancelling the first-leg advantage Chelsea had.
It had been coming, and Barcelona doubled their lead when Iniesta slotted past Cech. Barcelona had not lost from a 2-0 advantage for the last 20 years, and when John Terry was red-carded, Chelsea fans feared the worst.
But Chelsea had some statistics on their side too: they had drawn on their last three meetings to the Nou Camp, and of all the 55 teams Guardiola has faced as Barcelona manager from 2008, Chelsea are the only side he has not beaten.
Ramires swung the tie back in Chelsea’s favour, before Fernando Torres wrapped it up. It was a match of sheer determination to prevail against an old nemesis.
1) Chelsea 4-1 Napoli AET (14/03/12; UCL L16)
It was hard not to fill up the list with Champions League games, but of all of them, this undoubtedly is the highlight. Many will regard the two Barcelona legs or the Munich win as a greater victory, but that would not have been possible if Chelsea had not overturned the first-leg deficit in such sensational fashion.
Trailing 3-1 after a suicidal first-leg line-up by AVB – where he left out senior players such as Cole, Lampard and Essien – it was left to Roberto Di Matteo to make amends for the club, with the young Portuguese gone before he could even see this tie through.
Chelsea found something from somewhere to advance into the next round against Benfica. Didier Drogba’s trademark header halved the deficit theoretically, with John Terry giving Chelsea an away-goal lead.
Inler volleyed home spectacularly to crush Chelsea fans’ hearts, but the players found something extra, with Lampard and Ivanovic smashing home.
Some might have felt the second-leg against Barcelona was better, but some fans, especially going in with a lead, might have expected a win, but few would have been confident that Napoli could blow a 3-1 lead.
It was this sheer determination, guts and desire to win that makes this match, in my opinion, the greatest Chelsea match this season.
There have been some quite stunning matches in a difficult season for Chelsea. An honourable mention has to go to the FA Cup semi-final thrashing of Tottenham, but Chelsea were in a good run of form up to that point and given Drogba’s incredible record at Wembley, a Chelsea win was more than probable.
It was hard not to fill up all my top five slots with Champions League matches, because that is where Chelsea’s successes this seasons have lay.
What, in your opinion, were the top five Chelsea matches? Leave your responses in the comment section below.