From one capital to another

As Chelsea prepare to travel to Cardiff on Sunday, here’s a look at our previous victories in the Welsh capital during the Premier League era, including three trophy triumphs.

Amazingly, of our four victories in the city since the start of the Premier League, three of them have ended with the Blues hoisting some freshly won silverware into the air.

That’s almost as surprising as the low number of Chelsea league wins there during that time. In case you were wondering, that is mainly due to the fact that this Sunday will be only the second time we have played a Premier League match in Cardiff, with the Bluebirds suffering a long absence from the top flight before their brief return for 2013/14 and last season’s promotion.

That Premier League fixture on the last day of the 2013/14 campaign was our most recent visit to the city, in addition to being our only match there in that competition.

It was a sombre occasion at the Cardiff City Stadium as the home fans contemplated their relegation, which had already been guaranteed, although they were given hope their team could avoid the embarrassment of finishing bottom of the table when Craig Bellamy, often a thorn in Chelsea’s side, gave them the lead after 15 minutes.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side held on to that advantage until the 72nd minute, when Andre Schurrle equalised for the visitors, followed by a winner from Fernando Torres – who, like Mark Schwarzer and Ashley Cole, was making his last appearance for the Blues – just three minutes later to rub salt into Welsh wounds. It also ensured we fended off Arsenal’s challenge to end the season in third place and qualify directly for the Champions League group stage.

That is the only one of our wins to take place at the Cardiff City Stadium, with the other three all coming down the road at the Millennium Stadium, which hosted many of English football’s finals between 2001 and 2007, while Wembley Stadium was being rebuilt.

As a result, we made our first trip to the Welsh capital during the Premier League era to play against a fellow English side, Liverpool, in the 2005 League Cup final. However, it couldn’t have started much worse, as the Reds’ John Arne Riise smashed in the fastest goal ever in a League Cup final, after just 45 seconds.

Despite piling on the pressure we struggled to make clear chances as we pushed for an equaliser, but Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard diverted Paulo Ferreira’s free-kick into his own net and sent the match into extra time.

The additional 30 minutes belonged to Chelsea, as Didier Drogba finished from close range after getting on the end of Glen Johnson’s long throw, having already hit the post in extra time, shortly before Mateja Kezman slotted in Eidur Gudjohnsen’s cross.

Antonio Nunez pulled one back for Liverpool to make it a tense finish, but it ended 3-2 to give us our first trophy of Jose Mourinho’s first spell as manager, with the Premier League title to follow before the end of the season.

We were back at the Millennium Stadium for another League Cup final two years later, this time in an all-London affair against Arsenal, and again we had to come from behind as a 17-year-old Theo Walcott scored his first goal for the Gunners after 12 minutes.

Their lead didn’t last long, though, as Drogba equalised just eight minutes later, finishing confidently from Michael Ballack’s ball over the top. It looked like we were heading for more extra time in Wales and there was concern for skipper John Terry when he was stretchered off the pitch unconscious and taken to hospital after taking a boot to the face, but that injury seemed to fire up his team-mates.

That saw Drogba pop up once more to do what he does best, find the net in a cup final. With six minutes of normal time remaining, the Ivorian got on the end of Arjen Robben’s cross and headed past Manuel Almunia.

Despite an ill-tempered end to the match which saw Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure and John Mikel Obi all send off in injury time, Drogba’s goal was enough to send the trophy back to west London, with Terry even rushing back to the stadium in time to celebrate with his team-mates in the changing room.

Between those two League Cup finals, we also defeated Arsenal in Cardiff to claim the Community Shield in the 2005/06 season’s curtain raiser.

For once we were the ones who took an early lead and there’s no prizes for guessing who was the Blues hero, Drogba volleying us ahead in the eighth minute before adding a second in the second half, meaning the goal from future Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas for Arsenal was just a consolation.

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