“We’re the only team in London with a European Cup,
We’re the only team in London with a European Cup.
We’re the only team in London, only team in London,
Only team in London with a European Cup!”
Yep, it’s true. Chelsea are the only team in London with a European Cup, and don’t we just love to let everyone know about that little fact?
And whilst lifting the Champions League trophy is quite rightly revered as the greatest achievement in the club’s history, Chelsea’s long and storied past in Europe goes far beyond that wondrous Munich night on May 19th, 2012.
Chelsea’s cabinet for holding European trophies is a hefty one – and it needs to be. Upon winning the 2012/13 Europa League, the Blues became the first English club in history – and fourth overall – to have won all four European trophies (European Cup/Champions League, UEFA Cup/Europa League, Cup Winners’ Cup, and the Super Cup).
Not only that, but Chelsea are also the only team to hold the Champions League and Europa League at the same time. The naysayers might argue that this was only made possible when Chelsea became the first Champions League holders to exit the competition during the Group Stage (as we did in 2012/13), but trust me, this was simply all part of the club’s plan to create more history.
With all that in mind, let’s take a closer look at Chelsea’s glorious history in Europe, as we go on a chronological journey through the clubs’ continental triumphs.
European Cup Winners’ Cup (1970/71 & 1997/98)
Having previously only appeared in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup on three occasions, Chelsea were very much rookies on the European stage. Nevertheless, in 1971 the club made it all the way to the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup, where they faced European royalty Real Madrid – who were chasing a record seventh European trophy at the time.
Chelsea were not to be intimidated by their more illustrious opponents, though. After a 1-1 draw (on 19th May, would you believe), the sides met again for a replay just two days later. Goals from John Dempsey and the king, Peter Osgood were enough to earn the Blues a 2-1 win, as Chelsea won their first ever European trophy.
The Blues may not have been able to retain the trophy the following season, but they did manage to record their biggest win in the club’s history – a 13-0 drubbing over Jeunesse Hautcharage, in a 21-0(!) aggregate win.
Chelsea won the trophy again in 1997/98, defeating Stuttgart (managed by none other than Joachim Löw) 1-0 in the final in Stockholm. With the game at 0-0, Gianfranco Zola came off the bench and made an immediate impact. The Italian ran onto Dennis Wise’s through ball, and unleashed a wonderful half-volley that flew straight into the corner of the net. It was the club’s second trophy that season, following the League Cup final win over Middlesbrough earlier that year.
UEFA Super Cup (1998)
Following that Cup Winners’ Cup win in 1997/98, Chelsea were pitted against Champions League winners Real Madrid the following season in the 1998 UEFA Super Cup.
In only the third meeting between the clubs, following the Cup Winners’ Cup final and replay in 1971, it was Chelsea again who were victorious over Los Blancos. A goal from Gus Poyet in the 83rd minute was enough to separate the two teams, and allowed skipper Dennis Wise to get his hands on another European trophy for the club.
Champions League (2011/12)
“HE’S DONE IT! The greatest night in the history of Chelsea Football Club. European Champions! They’ve beaten Bayern in their own backyard. They’ve found the holy grail. After adventure, fraught with danger.” (Martin Tyler, 19/05/2012)
Beautifully said, Mart. I won’t go into considerable detail about that glorious night – you lucky people may find it covered later on in our A-Z series. But for the time being, let’s reflect on that night in Munich, and the journey towards it.
From Luis Garcia’s ghost goal in 2005, to Tom Henning Øvrebø’s failure to award Chelsea not one, not two, not three, but FOUR stonewall penalties in 2009, the club seemed destined to always be the ‘nearly-men’ of European football. And that’s without even mentioning a missed penalty in Moscow – we don’t speak of such things.
For all the elite Chelsea teams there have been throughout the Abramovich era – and there have been a few – the side of 2012 wasn’t really one of them, as a sixth-place finish in the Premier League will attest to. And yet, there was something in the air that season. Magic was afoot. As Gary Neville said when Didier Drogba approached the penalty spot to face Manuel Neuer, “it’s written in the stars”.
We all know what happened next. Drogba sent Neuer the wrong way, and Chelsea were crowned European Champions for the first time in their history. In the years that have ensued, us Chelsea fans have spent half of that time pinching ourselves, and the other half re-watching the highlights of that night on YouTube.
But it wasn’t just about that night in Munich, it was about the journey. Having been a Chelsea fan now for over 20 years, without a second thought I would choose that Fernando Torres goal at the Camp Nou as my favourite ever moment supporting the club. If you thought G-Nev sounded excited as Torres rounded Victor Valdes and placed the ball in the net, you should’ve seen my dad, brother and I jumping all over each other on the settee at home.
Europa League Glory (2012/13, 2018/19)
While this is an article to celebrate Chelsea’s glory in Europe, it would be remiss of me not to mention some of the more torrid nights in the club’s European history, having witnessed many of them on the television myself as a young lad.
In the early 2000’s, Chelsea were shambolic when competing in the UEFA Cup. An embarrassing first round exit to Swiss side St. Gallen in 2000/01 was followed by an equally humbling second-round defeat to Hapoel Tel-Aviv in 2001/02. At least there were mitigating circumstances for that defeat, as Chelsea had travelled to Israel without half a dozen first team players amid security fears. However, there could be no such excuses for what happened the following season. In 2002/03, the club were truly humiliated, crashing out of the first round of the UEFA Cup again after losing 5-4 on aggregate to Viking FC. And no, I haven’t just made that name up.
Thankfully, those days are long gone. Following that defeat to the Scandinavian savages, Chelsea spent the next ten consecutive seasons playing in the Champions League. It wasn’t until 2013, after coming third in our Champions League group behind Juventus and Shakhtar Donetsk, that the Blues made a return to the competition now known as the Europa League.
In truth, and said with maybe just a hint of arrogance, Chelsea were a cut-above the majority of clubs in the competition. After seeing off Sparta Prague, Steaua Bucharest, Rubin Kazan and Basel in the knockout stages, the Blues faced a tougher proposition in the final, coming up against European Giants Benfica at the Amsterdam Arena.
But Chelsea, the reigning European Champions at the time, were unfazed. With the game level at 1-1 and seemingly heading into extra-time, everyone’s favourite Serbian, Branislav Ivanovic headed home a 93rd minute winner to earn the Blues their first Europa League trophy, and land the club the full European set.
Chelsea achieved further glory in the Europa League in 2018/19, but you’ll know all about that after reading our earlier instalment (B is for Baku) of the A-Z series.
Edited by: Dan