A Moment in Time
feature Wed 7 Mar 2018
A week today the Blues are on the road in Europe once more, and it is a memorable Champions League away game that is the latest subject of our feature focusing on past matches through images...
Besiktas v Chelsea, Tuesday 9 December 2003, Champions League group stage, Gelsenkirchen
The build-up to our final Champions League Group G game in 2003 was dominated by events away from the pitch. Three weeks before our scheduled trip to Turkey to take on Besiktas, four truck bomb attacks in Istanbul killed 57 civilians. One of the targets was the British Consulate.
In response to the atrocities, UEFA decided that Galatasaray's home fixture against Juventus and our game at Besiktas would be played outside Turkey for safety reasons.
The large Turkish expat community in Germany made that country an obvious location for the rearranged game, and Besiktas settled on Schalke's glistening, 55,000-capacity arena as a venue. The same stadium would host that season's Champions League final, one Chelsea came so close to reaching.
In Gelsenkirchen, Besiktas received fanatical support from local Turkish people - even fans of their great rivals Galatasaray and Fenerbahce - as well as some who had travelled from Istanbul. So in spite of the fact the game was taking place over 2000km away from where Besiktas usually played, the Inonu Stadium, this truly felt like a European away tie for the visiting Chelsea contingent, which included 397 hardy Blues fans.
On the pitch, we had a job to do, requiring a single point to guarantee top spot in our group. Besiktas, who had won 2-0 at Stamford Bridge earlier in the campaign and in the process inflicted on us a first defeat of the Roman Abramovich era, would go top with a victory.
Claudio Ranieri opted for a 3-5-2 formation only used once before that season - in the reverse fixture in London, when we had been outplayed. But in a hostile atmosphere the Blues silenced the partisan crowd with a dominant display defined by character and quality.
With Hernan Crespo, Adrian Mutu and Eidur Gudjohnsen all out injured, Jesper Gronkjaer joined Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in attack and tested the Turks with his pace and trickery.
Babayaro had our best effort of the first half and Carlo Cudicini had no saves of any great note to make before the interval as we kept possession and wore our hosts down.
Before play could restart, a mountain of streamers had to be cleared off the pitch in and behind Carlo Cudicini's goal. Kick-off was delayed by eight minutes as the 'home' support made their displeasure at the relocation of the fixture seen.
Crackers, flares and lighters began to rain down and our bench put umbrellas up to protect themselves from any missiles thrown (top). But on the pitch Besiktas lacked spark as we executed our game plan perfectly.
All that was needed to top off a thoroughly professional European away performance was a goal, and on 77 minutes it duly arrived. Geremi found substitute Damien Duff in space and he cutely slipped in Hasselbaink who finished in style and celebrated with aplomb. The Arena AufSchalke fell silent.
We made sure of victory on the night and first place overall with another goal seven minutes later. This time Hasselbaink turned provider, teeing up Wayne Bridge after excellent work down the right by Johnson.
The finish was pinpoint and Bridge jumped with joy after opening his account for the club. He spoke about the goal and that night in a recent interview with this website.
A late Sparta Prague goal against Lazio in the other game condemned Besiktas to third place in the group, but for Ranieri's side the job had been done. All that was left to do was to thank the Chelsea fans, who by the end of the night were making themselves heard as the players warmed down in front of them with the rest of the stadium now empty.