In the modern era, the colour red is one tarred with rivalry and unlikability in the psyche of those who love Chelsea Football Club. It conjures visions of bitter rivals Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United – blood and danger, wrath and anger. Though for Frank Lampard, the colour might not be as tarred.
As Chelsea prepare to welcome the might of Bayern Munich back to Stamford Bridge on Tuesday in the First Leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie, the 41-year-old head coach will likely be reminiscing about two of the greatest nights in his glamourous career.
The night Chelsea captured the Champions League and defeated Bayern on penalties in their own backyard, will hold prominence as the highest accolade Lampard ever accomplished. Though, the other – less explored – encounter with Die Roten also brought with it a special moment.
In the Spring of 2005 Chelsea were beginning their ascendency to the top of English football. They had just dispatched Southampton in another stylish win, putting them three wins away from their first league title in 50 years. They were 13-points clear; breezing through every test and were beginning to look unstoppable.
The last eight of Europe’s top competition brought another encounter with a heavyweight. Bayern, for all their history and grandeur, would have been well aware of their upcoming opponents’ strength after overturning a first-leg deficit to overcome Barcelona in the previous round. Added to all the intrigue of the battle on the field, there was equal drama off it, with Jose Mourinho serving the first of a two-match ban from UEFA for his actions in Catalonia two months previous.
Mourinho was prohibited from entering the ground and was forced to stay by a nearby Leisure Centre watching the game on TV. Though as folklore has it, this would be the night of his alleged James Bond-like mission to get into Chelsea’s dressing room undetected and under UEFA’s nose.
It is said Mourinho was snuck in through a laundry basket to give both the pre and half-time team talks, then wheeled out of the grounds before full-time, and finally back to his room in time for bed. There are also theories that Mourinho’s assistant Rui Faria was in contact through a hidden earpiece under his beanie, which he wouldn’t be seen wearing again in the dugout.
The truth or untruth of the antics of Mourinho will remain a mystery, though what happened on the turf of Stamford Bridge that night was equally thrilling.
The visitors boasted the likes of future Blue Michael Ballack, Oliver Kahn in between the sticks, Owen Hargreaves and a young Bastian Schweinsteiger in midfield too.
Chelsea’s side was filled with club icons: Petr Cech, John Terry, Ricardo Carvalho, Joe Cole, Claude Makelele, Damien Duff, Eidur Gudjohnsen, Didier Drogba and of course, Frank Lampard. This wasn’t a team of your video game fantasies, it was reality.
For all of the reflection that Mourinho’s Chelsea was boring, this night was the antithesis of such a belief. Just like in the previous round against Barcelona, Chelsea would swarm over their opponents in the opening minutes, pouncing on their mistakes.
Within five minutes Chelsea were ahead thanks to a Joe Cole strike, and a deflection from defender Lucio to wrongfoot Kahn in goal.
Maybe the absence of Mourinho was aiding the free-flowing nature of the contest, as both sides’ intentions were to attack. Chelsea’s aim was to drown Bayern in a wave of blue. Bayern had to use all their European nous to stay afloat in the contest, keeping the Londoners at bay.
It would be Schweinsteiger who would level the contest after halftime, capturing a prized away goal. It was a messy (not Lionel) equaliser. A Ballack free kick would find the wall, rebounding to the feet of Ze Roberto which Cech could only parry for the German to finish.
Ironically, Schweinsteiger’s penalty miss would be key to Drogba’s winning penalty seven years later, and the Ivorian striker – still finding his feet in his first year in England – headed the ball down for Lampard to fire home and put Chelsea back in front just before the hour mark.
Though the most stunning moment was yet to come.
Whilst the host’s early energy had dampened a little, the waves of attack were starting to strengthen again, and the influential No.8 was starting to grow in stature. In the landscape of 2020 football, midfielders of Lampard’s ilk are in short supply and this game demonstrated how unique his talent was.
He was a box-to-box midfielder, who could play off the main striker, link play, create and score goals. This night was tailor-made for a confident Lampard, who put the world of football on notice.
A Makelele chipped ball was aimed towards Lampard backtracking into space on the edge of Bayern’s box. Lampard body was tilted, and not in a good enough position to head first time at goal. Instead, Lampard was forced to chest it, lifting the ball up into the air, and as it fell back to earth Lampard suavely twisted and contorted his body in a 180 degree motion, so by the time the ball landed it would connect sweetly with the Englishman’s left foot. The shot was across Kahn giving the Bayern skipper no chance. 3-1!
The goal scoring didn’t end there with Drogba netting a fourth from a corner (sound familiar?)
Bayern would give themselves a lifeline in the final minute of stoppage time with a penalty, scored by Ballack to end the night’s thrilling contest.
This was another example of how quickly Roman Abramovich’s wealth and Mourinho’s genius had transformed Chelsea into a domestic and European threat to fear.
Following the draw in December to reunite Chelsea with the Bundesliga giants, Lampard was asked to recall a landmark night for him personally. In a recent interview with BT Sport, the now head coach of Chelsea labeled the goal as technically his best.
“It’s probably one of the goals I can generally say if I try to do it time and time again it might not come off. A very instinctive goal. I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging too much about this goal because everything has an element of luck, you can try it a lot and hit Row Z, but with that one it all fell perfectly.
“I remember going to the training ground a week or so later and trying to do exactly the same skill to see if I could do it again and I couldn’t. I always tried to practice receiving difficult passes and have a feeling of where the goal was because you don’t get time, you don’t get time to look, you’re trying to focus on the ball, if I’d looked up I would have lost the moment.”
By the end of 2005 Lampard would be standing on a stage alongside Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o, being acknowledged as one of the best in world football. This was his breakthrough year and that moment of ingenuity and brilliance against Bayern Munich would have surely raised some eyebrows.
The second leg contested at the Olympiastadian a week later would not disappoint, producing another five goals. This time with Bayern getting the better of the Blues with a 3-2 win. Lampard and Drogba would both be on the scoresheet again and would wave off any late drama, seeing the game out to a 6-5 aggregate score come the full-time whistle. The high-scoring entertainment of Spring 2005 would pale in comparison to the tension and eventual stakes of 2012, when the two sides would meet once more to contest the finale of the competition.
“Lampard’s goal was world class”, Mark Worrall, Author and Publisher of several Chelsea books and novels tells All Things Chelsea.
“The crazy tekkers he displayed to control Maka’s lofted ball on his chest, turn and smash that left-footed volley past Kahn into the Bayern net buried the Fat Frank jibes and proved there was more to his game than being a tireless midfielder. We were level with it where we sit. For me that goal is on a par with the Zola goal against Norwich. Unforgettable. Amazing it was almost 15 years ago now!”.
Lampard would save many of his greatest strikes for the prestige of the Champions League. A season before, he struck the winner into the top corner at home against Lazio in the Group Stage; in 2006 his stunning byline goal at The Camp Nou against Barcelona; the emotional penalty in extra-time against Liverpool in 2008.
The cast of 2020 on Tuesday night will be wildly different. Chelsea are currently facing a slump in the league, battling for Champions League qualification, and enduring both with a crop of young players still in the early days of their fledgling careers. There was a certainty about Mourinho’s Chelsea which had most teams beaten before a ball was kicked; a certainty they could nullify opponents’ strengths whilst methodically prying on their weak points and exploiting them for a most devastating effect.
The current Chelsea are certainly uncertain. They lack the assured confidence to brush aside their inferiors, and conviction to be clinical when opportunities arise. Though, there is a raw unpredictability to Lampard’s side, which will make Hans-Dieter Flick weary even with the wealth of talent he will boast in the tie.
Instead of Cech, Lampard and Drogba, it’s now Kepa Arrizabalaga, (or Willy), Mateo Kovacic and Tammy Abraham.
Instead of Kahn, Ballack and Schweinsteiger, it’s now Manuel Neur, Serge Gnabry and Robert Lewandowski.
The Blues are firmly the underdogs, and that may aid Lampard away from the growing pressure of Premier League competition. And yet, as he steps out for a glamour tie under the glowing lights of Stamford Bridge, he will struggle to not recall one of the happiest nights of his career.