Chelsea's Champions League semi-final madness revisited

Drogba’s ‘f***ing disgrace’ TV rant, Torres’ Nou Camp redemption and THAT ‘Ghost Goal’: Chelsea ALWAYS bring the drama in the Champions League semi-finals… so expect more in Madrid tonight!

  • Chelsea are in the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 2014
  • They face Real Madrid over two legs for a place in the Istanbul final on May 29
  • The Blues have a turbulent history of dramatic occasions at the last four stage 
  • From Drogba’s fury to Garcia’s ghost goal, Sportsmail looks back in the archives 

When Chelsea take to the pitch against Real Madrid in the Champions League this evening, many players will be forgiven for believing this is an entirely new experience.

For many of them, indeed, it will be. Hardly any of the Chelsea squad have featured in the last four of the Champions League, while only Cesar Azpilicueta has done so in a blue shirt.

The Frenchman was part of the last Chelsea team to make the last four of the competition, when Jose Mourinho’s side bowed out to Atletico Madrid in 2014.

For all their power, prestige and relentless spending in European football over the past two decades, Chelsea haven’t had the best relationship with the latter stages of the Champions League.

Yet, when they get to the semi-finals, drama is always guaranteed.

It doesn’t take long for the mind of a Chelsea fan to wander back to very turbulent times, when nerves were sky high and glory was on the line.

Some have never forgiven Claudio Ranieri for his mind-boggling tinkering in 2004, while others can still hear the pain in Didier Drogba’s voice from two years later when he had to be held back from the camera by his own team-mates.

This is before a certain ghost goal is even mentioned.

Chelsea’s romance with Europe’s top cup competition throws up thrills and spills in abundance. As they prepare to lock horns with Zinedine Zidane’s seasoned veterans, could the football world be in store for the latest installment?

It’s a record which is far from envious. Chelsea have played in seven semis and won only two. Something always seems to come up which commands the limelight and turns a game of football into the most outlandish of spectacles.

Ahead of the Blues return to the big time for the first time in seven years, Sportsmail took a look back through the archives…    

Ranieri’s Monaco meltdown, April 2004

Monaco 3-1 Chelsea (5-3 agg)

Claudio Ranieri was feeling the intense pressure of a new regime in 2004, with new owner Roman Abramovich the fresh face on the block and expecting huge things after injecting millions into the club.

Chelsea were the talk of the football world. The process of steadily acquiring some of the most talented and in-demand players on the planet had started, and it appeared Champions League glory could arrive immediately.

The Blues made the semis during Abramovich’s first season at the helm in 2003-04, and Italian tinkerman Ranieri had only Monaco to navigate in order to make the final.

Claudio Ranieri was on course to take Chelsea to the final but was undone by his own tactics

The French outfit were nothing to be sniffed at, but had no pedigree when it came to the Champions League. Ranieri simply had to get things right and his men would be through to the last two of the competition at the first time of asking under the rule of their new wealthy Russian owner.

And then… it all fell apart.

The first leg of the fixture saw Monaco have a man sent off and play with 10-men for 40 minutes, yet still somehow go on to win 3-1.

Dado Prso headed the French side ahead after 15 minutes, but marquee summer signing Hernan Crespo soon got Chelsea back into the contest.

It was just shortly after the second half began that the Blues were expected to take control of proceedings in the Principality, after Andreas Zikos was sent off for raising his hands to Claude Makelele.

The sending off of Monaco’s Andreas Zikos was widely expected to turn the tide for Chelsea

Chelsea now had the advantage, but things were already starting to go amiss. At half-time, with the score level, Ranieri had left fans perplexed after opting to take off the hard-working Jesper Gronkjaer for an out-of-sorts Juan Sebastian Veron.

It hampered the flow of the Blues, who didn’t look comfortable inside the Louis II Stadium. Though things were about to go from bad to worse. 

Ranieri’s men did initially make the most of their numerical advantage and very nearly took the lead after Eidur Gudjohnsen headed marginally wide.

But then the tinkerman well and truly lived up to his name. Ranieri made the utterly bizarre call to replace Mario Melchiot with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, before removing the influential Scott Parker for Robert Huth.

The balance of the side was immediately thrown off and Monaco could smell blood. Fernando Morientes lashed home past Marco Ambrosio in goal, despite the best efforts of a young John Terry to block.

But bizarre sub choices unbalanced the Blues and Fernando Morientes fired his side to victory

Minutes later substitute Shabani Nonda also found the back of the net. Chelsea were stumped, and fans in the stands were left speechless.

A huge mountain was left to climb in the second leg, and the damage was already done. 

Makelele missed the return leg due to an accumulation of yellow cards, and Chelsea could only manage a 2-2 draw as Morientes tormented the Blues once again. 

The blame for the shock 5-3 aggregate scoreline is still to this day put down to Ranieri’s poor calls on the touchline.

Luis Garcia and the ‘ghost goal’, May 2005

Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea (1-0 agg) 

A year after the horrors of Monaco, Chelsea were back and looked stronger than ever before.

They had invested even more into the squad and now looked formidable in every position of the field.

What’s more, the man who had defeated Monaco in the final the season prior was now commanding the dug-out. Under Jose Mourinho Chelsea were expected to surge to the Istanbul final.

And then came Liverpool.

Steeped in tradition with a lifelong love affair with the European Cup, the Reds were significantly weaker than their opponents but something about their run to the latter stages under new boss Rafa Benitez had an air of inevitability.

Anfield held its breath as Luis Garcia’s ‘ghost goal’ went in after less than five minutes played

Both sides exchanged heavy punches in the first leg at Stamford Bridge, and Chelsea settled for a goalless stalemate despite chances at either end.

Liverpool, crucially, had been denied a vital away goal. Anything hitting the back of the net for Chelsea at Anfield would surely be sending them through.

But the Blues soon found out this was going to be no ordinary game of football. A wall of noise greeted Mourinho’s men as they stepped out into the Merseyside night air.

‘The power of Anfield Road, I felt it.’ Mourinho would later say after the match, despite being left incensed by one of the most dramatic incidents in Champions League history which happened less than five minutes into the match.

After winning the toss Mourinho’s men made Liverpool kick towards the famous Kop in the first half, to deny an emotional advantage late in the second half. But, alas, it would come back to haunt them.

Blues fans of a certain vintage will still have nightmares of Luis Garcia flicking the ball past John Terry after Milan Baros was felled by Petr Cech.

Anfield held its breath as Ricardo Carvalho and William Gallas desperately combined to hack the ball away, but the referee insisted goal. 

Garcia peeled away in manic celebration and the Kop boomed. Chelsea would hammer down chances upon the Reds for the remainder of the match but Benitez’s men would not cave.

Semi-final heartbreak strikes again, two seasons running.

Riise’s Kop own-goal, April 2008

Liverpool 0-1 Chelsea (4-3 agg) 

There has always been something about Chelsea and Liverpool in the modern era of the Champions League.

Two bitter foes, determined to thwart each other on the European stage.

Still smarting from Garcia’s exploits in 2005, the Blues were handed the opportunity to enact revenge two years later when meeting Liverpool once again in the semi-finals, on the road to Moscow.

This time, the first leg was to be held at Anfield and Chelsea were desperate for this to be a much less dramatic event. A routine victory desired by all in west London.

Disaster struck for Liverpool in injury time as John Arne Riise headed into his own goal

But this was Chelsea and this was the Champions League last four… ‘routine’ never comes into the equation.

The opening tie looked doomed for Mourinho’s men. Anfield was once again in roaring voice and Dirk Kuyt had found the back of the net for the hosts on the cusp of half-time.

Chelsea went into the break rattled, and spent large portions of the second period trying to re-acclimitise and crack on with the task at hand.

It was no use. The game ticked into stoppage time and Liverpool held the upper hand. It was to be a repeat of two years prior, except this time the Reds would be taking an advantage into the crucial second leg.

But then, as ever, the drama unfolded.

This time it would not be Chelsea on the receiving end of some heavy heartbreak.

With the final seconds of the match almost up, Salomon Kalou curled a speculative, low-lofted cross into the dead centre of the Liverpool penalty area.

The Norwegian held his head in shame as Chelsea took a vital advantage into the second leg

The ball was about to work its way between Chelsea’s two lethal strikers, Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka. Yet the luckless John Arne Riise wasn’t to know this.

The Norwegian sensed the impending danger and panicked, stooping down low in a desperate attempt to head the ball somewhere – anywhere – away from goal.

Instead, he pelted it directly past his own goalkeeper Pepe Reina as the referee was quite literally putting his whistle to his lips.

Chelsea fans in the away end erupted with joy, this was the Anfield closure they had craved. Mourinho’s side would go on to win the second leg 3-2 in extra time, progressing to the final in Russia with a thrilling 4-3 aggregate scoreline. 

Didier Drogba’s fury and Ovrebo’s night to forget, May 2009

Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona (1-1 agg) 

This night of football had it all.

World class stars, tension, frustration, drama and elation. A melting pot of emotions stirred constantly by the most questionable of refereeing. 

Barcelona were in town and the match had everything to play for following a goalless stalemate in the first leg at the Nou Camp.

Nerves were aplenty for both sides, though it was the man in the middle who would arguably make the greatest impact. 

Norwegian official Tom Henning Ovrebo still cites this match as the turning point in his career, which haunts him to this day.

Referee Tom Henning Ovrebo will forever look back on the next in west London as a career low

A string of poor decisions by the Norwegian cost Chelsea dearly and left Didier Drogba livid

Throughout a nail-biting 90 minutes in west London Ovrebo appeared to make error after error with his judgement, and Stamford Bridge quickly became a cauldron of venom. 

Michael Essien struck after nine minutes for the hosts to give Chelsea a foothold in the tie, but momentum firmly appeared to rest with Barca after a series of close shaves fell in their favour.

Chelsea saw four separate penalty appeals waved away during the match despite increasing pressure from the home fans.

Ovrebo boldly ruled that a Dani Alves’ foul on Florent Malouda had taken place outside rather than inside the area, before then going on to state he had not seen Eric Abidal’s subsequent tug on Didier Drogba.

This was the first of the dominoes to fall which would lead Drogba to unleash compete fury at the final whistle.

Ovrebo would then fail to notice a Gerard Pique handball, as Barca continued to ride their luck. 

Andreas Iniesta scored a stunning stoppage time goal, moments after a Samuel Eto’o handball

The ultimate catalyst for full meltdown however was the second missing of a handball, this time by striker Samuel Eto’o, just moments before a sublime injury-time strike by Andreas Iniesta.

Play continued despite furious protestations and the Barca star was able to lash the ball into the roof of the net at the famous Shed End.

The whistle sounded shortly after and Barca progressed at the death, courtesy of the away goal ruling. On the touchline Drogba was livid.

The Ivorian had to be held back by staff and team-mates as he sought out the ref. Realising he could not get onto the pitch, Drogba channeled his fury directly down the camera lense to the fans watching around the world.

‘It’s a disgrace! It’s a disgrace… it’s a f*****g disgrace!’ Drogba roared, with fists clenched and fire in his eyes. 

Drogba aimed his fury at the cameras and branded the ref and the match a ‘f*****g disgrace’

‘Players make many mistakes, coaches make mistakes, referees make mistakes – that’s why we speak about giving them the benefit of the doubt,’ Chelsea’s then manager Guus Hiddink said in his post-match interview.

‘But if you have seen three or four situations waved away, then [Ovrebo’s performance] was the worst I have seen.’

So fierce was the immediate backlash, that those responsible for the referee’s security decided to move him to another London hotel that very night. 

Death threats would later be sent to the Norwegian, and he received a police escort out of England.

In 2018, Ovrebo told Spanish publication Marca: ‘It was not my best day, really, but those mistakes can be committed by a referee, and sometimes a player or a coach. 

‘Some days you are not at the level you should be. But no, I can’t be proud of that performance.’

Torres’ redemption, April 2012

Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea (2-3 agg)

It’s fair to say Fernando Torres’ Chelsea career did not at all go to plan.

Signed from rivals Liverpool at the peak of his powers, Torres was widely considered the best striker on the planet for a period.

He was supposed to lead the Blues to endless success, but a rapid deterioration in both form and confidence saw the Spaniard become a shadow of his former self.

Torres sloped into the shadows at Stamford Bridge and looked to be heading for the exit door.

For that reason, it makes his iconic contribution at the Nou Camp even more remarkable.

Fernando Torres earned his redemption with the goal to send Chelsea through to the final

Chelsea’s path to the 2012 final saw them lock horns with the seemingly unstoppable Barcelona once again – the reigning champions of the competition after beating Manchester United the season prior.

The first leg had been won by the Blues 1-0, after Drogba gained some personal retribution of his own and hit the winner at Stamford Bridge.

But it was all to play for in Spain, and Chelsea knew full well that Barca would not roll over and relinquish their crown without a fight.

First-half goals from Sergio Busquets and Andreas Iniesta saw the Catalan side surge ahead, before Ramires struck back in injury time just before the break.

With the aggregate scoreline locked at 2-2 heading into the second half, Chelsea knew the power had swayed to their side courtesy of the away goal. Barca simply had to come out and attack; something Guardiola’s side were irresistible at.

And so, as expected, Barca surged again and again. The fearsome Lionel Messi even missed a penalty, adding to the tension of the entire evening. Chelsea held off wave after wave until the final moments when the hosts had to risk everything.

Pushing every man upfield, Barca were completely caught off guard by a rogue Chelsea counter attack, which saw Torres played through on goal. 

The Nou Camp was stunned as Torres rounded Victor Valdes to put the final nail in the coffin

The Spaniard, fresh after coming on as a late substitute, controlled the ball on the halfway line after Chelsea had hoofed it clear from a corner. 

From there he sprinted into an expanse of open green grass as Barca hearts started to pound in the stands. Gerard Pique couldn’t catch him, and after rounding Victor Valdes and tapping into an open goal, everybody from the home team hit the floor.

They knew it was over. Torres had inflicted the killer blow. Chelsea progressed to the final where they would finally get hands on the trophy they most craved, beating Bayern Munich on penalties in the Allianz Arena.




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