History

When Wayne shot down the Gunners on the European stage

Chelsea and Arsenal have met before in European competition, when the Blues claimed a famous victory through an unlikely source.

In the first and, until this Wednesday night, only London derby in UEFA competition history we met the Gunners in the quarter-finals of the Champions League in the 2003/04 season - the first campaign under the ownership of Roman Abramovich.

The tie pitted us against a team soon to be dubbed the Invincibles when Arsenal went unbeaten throughout the Premier League season. Combined with their fantastic domestic form, the Gunners also boasted a formidable record against the Blues over the previous decade, and they were the clear favourites to progress.

That remained the case after the first leg at Stamford Bridge, when Robert Pires quickly cancelled out Eidur Gudjohnsen's second-half opener, and the Gunners further strengthened their hold on the tie on the stroke of half-time in the second leg when Jose Antonio Reyes fired past Marco Ambrosio, the back-up Chelsea keeper who was standing in for the injured Carlo Cudicini.

Neither players nor supporters were disheartened, though, fully aware at the beginning of the game that at least one goal would have been needed to progress in any case. A huge roar greeted the Blues as we entered the field for the second half and when Frank Lampard drew us level, suddenly Highbury was gripped by a nervous tension.
 

The home side seemed to suffer the most, with their usual fluency notably absent as the game approached extra-time, although they were given a lifeline when Ashley Cole, still in his Arsenal days, cleared a Gudjohnsen shot off the line.

Just as it appeared an additional 30 minutes, at least, would be required, an iconic Chelsea Champions League moment was sprung on us by the unlikeliest of sources. Wayne Bridge sauntered forward from left-back and exchanged passes with Gudjohnsen, who atoned for his earlier miss with an inch-perfect assist, giving Bridge the time and space to slot home an 87th-minute winner.
 

'It was one of the most amazing moments of my career, undoubtedly my best in a Chelsea shirt,' said the left-back, who found the back of the net only four times in 142 appearances for the club between 2003 and 2009.

'I got the ball and played it to Eidur, who is someone I think most Chelsea fans remember as a great player but I’d say is still massively underrated. He had great feet and vision and he knew I was going for the one-two; he basically had one place he could put it if he was going to play the return pass, and that was through the legs of [Kolo] Toure. Eidur being Eidur, he’s nutmegged him and then I’ve finished it off.'
 

The Blues No.18 headed straight into the Chelsea fans, who were beside themselves, while on the touchline Claudio Ranieri, usually so calm, erupted with joy alongside the players on the bench.

'Scoring that goal was just the best feeling ever – I honestly can’t describe how good it felt – and it was right in front of the Chelsea fans, too,' added Bridge. 'I was straight over there and in amongst them. It was brilliant. When you watch it back, you can see the camera pan back to Ranieri and it looked like he was about to cry!

'The funny thing is, after it went in I remember getting the ball a few times and I just punted it up field. Lampsy said to me, “Relax, relax,” and I'm like, “We're only up by one!” I hadn’t taken into account away goals, so it was a relief when he told me they needed to score twice to win.'
 

With so little time left to play, we comfortably saw out a famous victory against one of our biggest rivals and Ranieri could celebrate his first win over Arsenal in four years as our manager. As the final whistle blew and the reality hit him, tears of joy streaked down his cheeks – and he owed it all to one moment of magic from an unlikely source.

Read: Wayne Bridge FC

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