Over the years we have seen some great spot kick takers at Stamford Bridge. Rarely out on the green have we seen a team in blue with not at least two or three penalty takers capable of stepping up in a big pressure moment that could decide a game. All had their own unique styles too. Lampard’s pure power. Hazard’s wavering ability to deceive the goalkeeper through the convincing nature of his gaze; and most recently Jorginho’s ‘hop and skip’, which has since been adopted by many fellow spot kick takers. As a fan, penalties are one of the best and worst experiences when watching your team play. The initial cheer and ecstasy of a penalty being awarded is quickly tarnished by the gut-wrenching feeling of ‘what if he misses’, even if I’m aware that the most accomplished takers are preparing to step up. They hold such importance; a gift to any team, which if capitalized on can literally change the course of a season, yet if squandered, can be rued for years and years; as us Chelsea fans are most certainly aware. With that in mind, here are my top five most important penalties in my lifetime as a Chelsea fan.
Number 5 – John Terry vs Manchester United
I was considering whether or not to keep the penalties mentioned purely positive, but decided that that was just an easy way out of discussing one of the most important penalties in the club’s history, regardless of whether or not it resulted in disaster. As mentioned above, us avid Blues are all well aware of the heartbreak of a penalty shootout, and nothing quite compares to heartbreak than JT’s miss in the 2008 Champions League final. It just couldn’t have been more devastating; a perfectly poorly written script – JT being the tragic hero in what could’ve been the best night in the club’s history. The penalty itself is excruciating to describe. The worst bit being that no-one can be held responsible for his loss of footing which sent the ball crashing against the post. The football gods just simply were not with us that night. But they would be on another night…
Number 4 – Eden Hazard vs Manchester United
Now that the most painful moment in the history of any Chelsea fan is out of the way, it’s time to reflect on some of the more blissful moments that have occurred as a result of conversion from 12 yards. Eden Hazard provided many of those over his 7 year spell in blue. One of the greatest being his penalty in a 1-0 win over Jose Mourninho’s Manchester United in the FA Cup final of 2018. Nonchalantly rolling the ball to De Gea’s left in trademark Eden Hazard fashion, after being hauled down by Phil Jones in the build up, secured our eighth FA Cup triumph, and was a sweet ending to an otherwise bitter second season under Antonio Conte.
Number 3 – Eden Hazard vs Crystal Palace
Hazard at it again, but this time not in as perfect a manner as would be expected from the Belgian. In fact he actually missed his penalty on the stroke of half time against Crystal Palace in 2015; a smart save from Julian Speroni which popped up perfectly for Hazard to guide in with his head, sending Speroni the wrong way. The penalty not only won us the game, but secured Jose Mourninho’s third title in charge of the club, and epitomised the ‘win at all costs’ Chelsea which had been built by Mourninho during his second spell at the club. Having already been crowned PFA Player of the Year for the 2014/15 campaign, there was also no better player to wrap up a dominant season, and yet more silverware to add to the ever growing list of honors.
Number 2 – Frank Lampard vs Napoli
The return leg of our Round of 16 tie against Napoli is to this day one of the greatest encounters I have seen unfold at the Bridge. Having lost 3-1 in Naples, we had it all to do back in London, and did it all we did. Didier Drogba and John Terry had put us in control, before Gohkan Inler’s second half strike gave Napoli a huge advantage with half an hour to play. So when a penalty was awarded in front of the Matthew Harding, with 15 minutes to play, up stepped Frank Lampard. The power behind the strike almost took the net off; sending the Bridge into pure raptures. It was at this moment it became clear that Chelsea’s old guard was not to be denied. Lampard held his nerve as he always did; scoring one of the most crucial penalties in the clubs’ history which paved the way for Branislav Ivanovic to thump home the winner, deep into extra time. Foreshadowing, maybe, of just the type of lengths this group of players would go to to compete against Europe’s elite. Never beaten, regardless of the mountain that stood in front of them.
Number 1 – Didier Drogba vs Bayern Munich
Needless to say if an article is being written about Chelsea and penalties, there is really only one spot kick that matters. Truly the greatest moment in the long history of the football club is Didier Drogba putting Bayern Munich to the sword, in their own backyard, to secure our first, London’s first, Champions League trophy. It was nothing short of a fairytale end to one of the most magical Champions League campaigns ever witnessed. Drogba stepped up for what was known to be his last kick for Chelsea at the time, knowing that if he scored, Chelsea would be European Champions. What’s funny is that the biggest penalty to ever be taken for Chelsea is the only penalty that I have ever been certain would hit the back of the net. After the heartbreak of 08, everything had already fallen into place prior to Drogba strolling up to face Manuel Neuer. As Gary Neville exclaimed live on Sky Sports “It is written in the stars” – a destiny that went so much further beyond the game of football. And for Drogba it was a case of the bigger the occasion, the better the response. So as he stood over that spot kick, there was no doubt in my mind over the outcome of one of the most nerve-wracking nights of my life. The reality was even better than could ever be imagined.
Edited by: Dan