Our Europa League last-16 tie may only be Chelsea’s second visit to Kiev’s Olympic Stadium, but it is a venue which will no doubt be familiar to fans, and a few players past and present.
The Blues’ only previous visit was in 2015 for a 0-0 draw in the Champions League group stage, but three years earlier it had been the scene of glory for two of our players, plus two future Chelsea men, one who will be hoping to be involved against Dynamo Kiev this evening.
They were part of the Spain squad which won Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine, with the final taking place in Kiev. Fernando Torres and Juan Mata travelled to Eastern Europe fresh from lifting the Champions League trophy with Chelsea, while Cesc Fabregas and Pedro, both then with Barcelona, would go on to become Blues.
The final was the only game Spain played in Kiev during the tournament, but it was certainly a memorable occasion, as all four players with Chelsea links were involved. Fabregas, who had been a key figure for La Furia Roja throughout their time in Poland and Ukraine, set up David Silva for the opening goal, before Mata, Torres and Pedro all came off the bench as Spain secured an emphatic 4-0 victory over Italy.
Torres scored Spain’s third goal, running clear to slot calmly past Gianluigi Buffon and secure the Golden Boot award for the tournament’s top scorer, before the striker teed up his Blues team-mate Mata to slot home the fourth.
Kiev, along with Donetsk, had also been the venue for one of the more interesting groups at Euro 2012, and the only one that saw Chelsea players on opposing sides. After former Blues striker and Dynamo Kiev legend Andriy Shevchenko had scored a brace to give hosts Ukraine a dream start there, with a 2-1 win over Sweden, the next visitors to the stadium was an England side featuring Ashley Cole and John Terry.
A rollercoaster ride of a match saw the Three Lions take the lead, before a Swedish fightback started by former Chelsea defender Glen Johnson’s own goal saw them have to come back from behind themselves, eventually ending as 3-2 winners. In addition to Cole and Terry playing the whole match, current Blue Rob Green was on the bench for England.
The other team in that group was France, who had another of Chelsea’s Champions League winners, Florent Malouda, in their squad, as well as a young Olivier Giroud, who was yet to move to the Premier League, still playing his club football for Montpellier. Both those players came off the bench in Les Bleus’ last group game, a 2-0 defeat to Sweden at the Olympic Stadium, but they went through regardless.
For the quarter-finals, it was England who returned to Kiev, for a tough knockout tie against Italy. Cole and Terry were in the starting line-up for the Three Lions again, but it would not be a happy ending for the duo, despite taking the eventual finalists all the way to a penalty shoot-out, with the two Blues key to a fine defensive display.
However, England’s penalty curse would strike again. Cole, who had netted in the Champions League final shoot-out a month earlier, this time saw his effort saved by Buffon, after Ashley Young had hit the bar, meaning it was the Italians who progressed to the semis.
No doubt there was some satisfaction for Chelsea fans to see fellow Blues Torres and Mata exact revenge for their team-mate’s elimination at the hands of Italy in the next match in Kiev, as they hoisted the European Championship trophy in the air.