FA Cup Final - May 17th 1997
Three years after losing the 1994 FA Cup Final, Chelsea FC were back at Wembley attempting to win the club’s first major trophy in 26 years. This time though there was a very different feel. The young home-grown talent that performed valiantly then had three more seasons of experience and had been reinforced with some of the finest European talent. Also, we would not be facing the best team in the country this time, rather a Middlesbrough team overcome by internal divisions and having been relegated a week earlier.
Any nerves that the team might have had were settled within 43 seconds as Roberto Di Matteo strode forward and hit a dipping shot over the ‘Boro keeper. It was the fastest goal ever in FA Cup Finals at the time and seemed to deflate the opposition.
Without creating many clear chances, we kept possession well and were always in control of the game. Even so, after 26 years of waiting not one supporter was ready to relax until we had a second goal.
That came with eight minutes left. On a breakaway Dan Petrescu clipped a fine cross to the far post, Gianfranco Zola executed a typically extravagant back heel and Eddie Newton was on hand to bundle the ball home. It was Newton’s first goal of the season and perfect redemption for the local lad who had given away the first penalty in 1994.
As the final whistle blew, the celebrations on the pitch went on for almost an hour as the frustrations and heartaches of more than a quarter of a century were laid to rest.