Chelsea legend Dan Petrescu is one of those returning to the Bridge to play against Inter Forever next month, and he has recalled a couple of games that stand out when he casts his mind back to 1998…
Dan Petrescu was one of the first foreign players to arrive at Stamford Bridge, enticed to move from Sheffield Wednesday and join Glenn Hoddle’s Chelsea revolution.
The right-sided player had starred for Romania at the 1994 World Cup in America, and earlier in his career featured in a European Cup final for Steaua Bucharest. He brought big-game experience, industry and a fantastic first touch to west London.
He was a crucial asset as we won our first major trophy in 26 years under Ruud Gullit, the FA Cup in 1997. When the Dutch player-manager was replaced by Gianluca Vialli midway through the following campaign, his position shifted from right wing-back in a sweeper system, to an attacking right-sided midfielder in an adaptable 4-4-2.
'I hope everybody remembered that year as a fantastic year when we won three cups.'
— Dan Petrescu
It worked a treat as Petrescu finished the 97/98 season second only to Gianfranco Zola on the assists list, and also weighed in with eight goals in his 43 appearances that term. One was against Arsenal in the second leg of our Coca-Cola Cup semi-final; it gave us what proved an unassailable aggregate lead, and it was a thing of beauty. He danced past a couple of defenders in a tight spot before firing home.
‘I remember that goal against Arsenal even now,’ he smiles.
‘It was a fantastic goal, and it was an important goal to score against Arsenal. It was a corner, and the second ball came to me. I made two or three dribbles before I scored. Even my reaction was fantastic after I scored that goal!’
It booked us a place at Wembley where we beat Middlesbrough for the second time in a year, and we got the taste of silverware just a few weeks later with victory in the Cup Winners’ Cup final.
Although the night ended early for Petrescu when he was extremely harshly dismissed late on, it didn’t affect the final scoreline: 1-0 to the Blues.