The Far East Stand Fri 10 Nov 2017
In the wake of last weekend’s excellent win against Manchester United, there was an interesting split-screen video put out by Chelsea TV which compared Alvaro Morata’s goal with one scored by Chris Sutton against the same opponents 18 years ago.
The course of action in both clubs is remarkably similar with a Spanish defender (Albert Ferrer in 1999 and Cesar Azpilicueta last week) running unchallenged down the right of the United half and floating an inviting cross towards the centre of the box for our number nine to send a looping header into the top right corner of the net.
Of course, there are some differences. Morata’s effort came in front of the Matthew Harding Stand, while Sutton scored at the Shed End (the main TV cameras were stationed at different sides of the ground for each game) and 1999 goalkeeper Massimo Taibi did at least attempt to make a save while David de Gea was merely a spectator as the ball hit the back of the net.
And while Morata’s goal proved pretty important as it secured a 1-0 win against the Red Devils on Sunday, Sutton’s strike turned out to be just the second salvo for the Blues in a 5-0 rout, our biggest ever home win against United.
However, what can’t be denied is the bliss felt by every Chelsea fan as we watched those two headers hit the back of the net, 18 years apart.
Viewing the Sutton goal also brings back some great memories of that wonderful day in October 1999 when we handed the reigning champions of Europe and England a beating which signalled the start of a shift in the balance of our rivalry.
For most of the nineties, we had been some distance behind the Red Devils, whom won seven of the first nine Premier League titles, lifted four FA Cups in 10 seasons and completed an unprecedented 'treble' in 1999 when they were also victorious in the Champions League.
Of course, the Blues were on the rise at the time and we also collected a few trophies in the late nineties ourselves. However, our successes were overshadowed by United who also had a habit of rubbing in their superiority whenever we met in big matches.
They ended our FA Cup hopes four times in six seasons, defeating us in the 1994 final, the 1996 semi-finals, the 1999 quarter-finals and, most painfully of all, in the third round in 1998 when our defence of the trophy faltered at the first hurdle after a 5-3 defeat at Stamford Bridge.
While we didn’t fare too badly when we travelled to Old Trafford back then, losing only two league games there from 1965 to 2000, our home form against United wasn't the best and we were winless in seven league and cup matches against them at the Bridge before that fateful day in 1999.
However, that 5-0 win was a pretty seminal result as it put to an end any feeling of inferiority the Blues may have felt when challenging the dominance of Alex Ferguson’s side.
The rivalry is much more even now although our home form against United is very much improved. Since the turn of the millennium, they have managed only two league wins at the Bridge while we have been victorious on 10 of their last 15 visits following our win last Sunday.
It may be a long time before we see the Blues put five goals past United again, although we did go pretty close to matching that total last year when we comfortably defeated them 4-0. But after breaking their hegemony and lifting a fair number of trophies along the way, we certainly have plenty more to sing about than we did before that memorable game 18 years ago.