Champions League football was back at the Bridge, Frank Lampard’s first European knockout game was just hours away and the excitement and nerves were starting to build. I waited, for what seemed like forever, to have a meeting with my uni tutor so that I could finally leave and head off to the Bridge. Chelsea was all that was on my mind.
To my surprise TFL had pulled off a madness. All trains were running. No issues on the District line. Everything running smoothly, a somewhat rare occurrence these days. I arrived in Putney as I do for every game, grabbed some food and headed off to Stamford Bridge. I had some time to kill before I needed to meet Nischal (@Nischal_SP) and Shayan (@FinallyChels) so I decided to walk to the stadium, with my Chelsea playlist increasing my excitement with every step.
After Shayan’s late arrival on Saturday, I was shocked to see him emerge from the crowd 10 minutes early. After a sarcastic applause, Nischal arrives and we head round to East Lower to get to our seats, and of course predict the score.
Nischal, forever the optimist, goes for a 2-0 Chelsea win. I, fresh from having the Champions League anthem in my ears, go for Chelsea scraping a 1-0 victory and as per usual our favourite pessimist Shayan predicts a 3-0 loss. He turned out to be the realist of the group this time.
We get inside and find our seats, right next to the Bayern fans, who are in good voice already. We were going to need a special atmosphere to help us win the game, but unfortunately that’s not something that registers with the sort of people who sit in East Lower.
Before the match, the display in the Matthew Harding was presented, a proud moment for me personally as the banners that I had designed were broadcast live to millions. It was unfortunately slightly ruined by some people who couldn’t seem to understand the difference between hanging a banner over the edge and crowd surfing it, but I wasn’t going to let that get me down.
The game kicked off and Nischal starts his relentless chanting with Shayan and I joining in at the start to try and encourage the lifeless people around us to actually support rather than spectate. It’s depressing when you get stares from people for supporting, almost as if you’re doing something wrong. If it weren’t for the cheaper tickets, I’d certainly be standing in the Matthew Harding.
Chelsea started off relatively well, with a shot from Mount showing our intentions early on. However, Bayern Munich were dominating the ball and creating chance after chance. Coman was fed in after lacklustre defending from Rudiger, but his shot was fortunately just wide, much to our relief.
We then started to create a few chances as Olivier Giroud’s header from a corner went on target, but was simple enough for Manuel Neuer to claim. Ross Barkley’s cross whistles past the far post as hands go on heads all around the ground. The atmosphere was growing, at least in the Matthew Harding. In East Lower the atmosphere was still Nischal and only Nischal, as ‘supporters’ continued to turn their heads at the seemingly strange sound of chants.
Caballero makes a string of important saves and I turn smugly to Shayan who had been backing Kepa to return to the side. Turns out Willy was doing alright. Muller’s incredible header then cannoned off the bar, the closest Bayern had come so far. Caballero and the woodwork had been saving us from complete annihilation.
Just before half time Alonso gets the ball right in front of us, cuts in and unleashes a shot which Neuer parries, but Giroud or Mount can’t react in time before it was dealt with by the Bayern defence. Nothing was quite going our way in the attacking third, and frustration was starting to build in the stadium.
The halftime whistle went, and there was a sense that it could have been much worse than it was. 0-0 was not a bad scoreline looking at the quality of chances that Bayern created.
Then it got much worse.
Bayern came out after the break and were rampant, forcing us into our half and cutting us open at will. Gnabry opened the scoring and a sigh of inevitability could be heard. We knew this was coming. They were too strong. Minutes later an unfortunate slip from Azpilicueta paved the way for Gnabry to be played in again, who finished perfectly past a despairing Willy Caballero.
It’s always tough to watch the opposition celebrate, but it’s much worse when it’s right in front of you. You could sense people sinking deeper into their seats, and the atmosphere in East Lower was completely dead. The Bayern Munich fans did give us a good laugh when they started singing ‘Football’s coming home’ but that wasn’t enough to raise the bodies around us to life. They were too deep in their graves.
Lewandowski completed the scoring as Bayern carved us open once more. It was men against boys and the German’s were deservedly in control with a commanding lead. It was made even worse when we realised that Shayan’s prediction had come true. Realism had won.
After Alonso’s red card, Chelsea fans started filtering out of the ground, as the noise from the travelling fans grew. It was a complete mismatch, on the pitch and off it. We were totally outclassed by an incredible Bayern team, and it was no less than they deserved.
Disappointed? Yes. Surprised? No
This team have a long way to go but we’ll all be back at the Bridge next week to face Liverpool in the cup. First comes the trip to Bournemouth. Let’s kick on and take one step further towards Champions League qualification. UTC