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Ivanovic: Striking it right

Branislav Ivanovic has made a habit of scoring important goals down the years, and admits he takes a certain pride in being the man for the big occasion.

The Serbian defender sent us into the Capital One Cup final in extra time on Tuesday night, his header proving too powerful for Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet to deal with. For most players, the occasion would stand out as a potentially career-defining moment, but for Ivanovic there was a sense of business as usual following on from a string of significant strikes.

There is some symmetry too. Ivanovic first grabbed the headlines in 2009 with Liverpool the victims then. His two headers at Anfield gave us a strong Champions League first leg lead as we progressed into the semi-finals.

‘When you go one by one, first with two goals against Liverpool, I think it changed my career here at Chelsea. It gave me confidence, and proved that I could play at the top level in the Champions League,’ the 30-year-old comments.

Three years later we would lift the trophy in Munich. Ivanovic was suspended on that night but nobody will forget his decisive contribution against Napoli at Stamford Bridge, slamming home from 12 yards to complete an unlikely comeback.

‘Napoli was very important on our way to winning the Champions League, and was a crucial game for the team,’ Ivanovic recalls, looking back on a tie in which we were trailing 3-1 from the first leg in southern Italy.  

‘It was so difficult for us after the result away but at home we did it and there was a great atmosphere. I was lucky as well, as a right-back I am not normally in that part of the pitch during that period of the game.’

Just over a year later it was his last-minute header which broke Benfica hearts in the Europa League final, while last season he crashed home a stunning left-footed drive to inflict Manchester City’s only home league defeat of the campaign.

 ‘I don’t really have a favourite of those goals. All of them were important for the team, important goals in big matches,’ he says.

‘With the Europa League final, scoring a goal that gives a trophy for the team is of course important and, maybe, the most important goal because it gave us a European trophy. It is something special in the last minute, and of course I am still happy about it.

‘All these goals helped the team, but because it is not my main job there is not the pressure on me to do it, and so I am more relaxed.

‘When the game is equal, you know set-pieces or certain situations can help a lot, and when you are attacking in the late minutes there can be panic in the defence.’

And how does he now reflect on Tuesday night?

‘Finally, Liverpool on Tuesday was very important, maybe it didn’t make the difference because we did well and didn’t concede so we would have gone through on away goals, but for me personally it is important and a nice moment.

‘Of course there are many other important games we have played and other guys decided them for us, but maybe one in 10 games it is me, and it’s a great feeling. To make these memories is fantastic and very important to look back on.’

If Saturday’s game with City is decided by a late Chelsea winner, nobody would be surprised to see Ivanovic wheeling away with his arm aloft and another famous winner to his name.