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Chelsea's free-kick specialists

It was 22 years ago this week that Roberto Carlos scored one of the most iconic free-kicks in the history of football, which got us thinking – which Blues have struck a sweet dead-ball over the years?

There are few finer sights on a football pitch than a player standing over a set-piece and promptly pinging a shot into the top corner; a true show of theatre from the moment the referee awards the free-kick to the second realisation dawns on supporters that the ball is about to hit the back of the net.

It’s a rare enough occurrence as it is, with a side doing particularly well if they score five direct free-kicks per season, so when it happens on the big stage or in spectacular fashion, such goals tend to live long in the memory.

Roberto Carlos’s famous effort for Brazil against France at Le Tournoi 22 years ago is a perfect example of that, with his ridiculous swerving effort from miles out getting repeated viewings on social media over the past few years.

After watching it for the umpteenth time, we cast our mind back to some of the free-kick specialists who have graced the Stamford Bridge turf over the years, recalling some breathtaking dead-ball strikes from some wonderful players.

Here’s a collection of those goals for your viewing pleasure – and, as always, if we’ve missed out any of your favourites, be sure to let us know via social media!

Mike Fillery v Tottenham Hotspur, 1981/82

In the early-Eighties, Fillery stood out as the most gifted technician in a Chelsea side struggling to get out of Division Two and in 1982 he was named Player of the Year shortly after scoring his best goal in a blue shirt.

After a shock win over Liverpool in the FA Cup, we met Spurs in the quarter-finals and another top-flight scalp was on the cards when Fillery put us in front shortly before the half-time with a left-footed screamer which flew past Ray Clemence.

'The fans always remind me of that,' he told Chelsea magazine a few years ago. 'Mr Punch [Clemence] didn't even see it!' Alas, it was in a losing cause as we fell to a 3-2 defeat.

Gianfranco Zola v Everton, 1996/97

Perhaps the greatest dead-ball specialist in the club's history, Zola's back catalogue of free-kick goals is the perfect viewing material for any budding young footballers questioning the 'practice makes perfect' mantra.

The Italian would spend time after virtually every training session pinging set-piece after set-piece into the top corner and the fruits of his labour could be seen out on the pitch whenever a free-kick was awarded within shooting distance. Fittingly, he opened his account for the Blues via this method from miles out with a curling effort that even the defender on the line couldn't get his head to!

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink v Blackburn Rovers, 2002/03

While our Italian maestro was all about finesse, anyone who witnessed Hasselbaink in his pomp will know the Dutchman was all about power.

Nigel Martyn, who was the goalkeeper in the Leeds United team Jimmy represented at the start of his Premier League career, once remarked he could side-foot a shot harder than most could kick it with their laces.

Well, this strike against Blackburn Rovers showed what he was capable of when he simply put his foot through the ball. From the edge of the D, logic dictates a little dink over the wall; Jimmy, raging that we were trailing 2-0 in stoppage time, threw logic out the window and thumped an incredible strike in off the crossbar.

Didier Drogba v Portsmouth, 2009/10

Some would argue the Ivorian's best free-kick as a Blue came in the 3-0 win at Arsenal during our Double-winning campaign, but we've plumped for his spectacular effort in the FA Cup final that season which defeated Portsmouth at Wembley Stadium.

The last of his 37 goals in what was undoubtedly his best campaign at the club was a perfectly placed set-piece which left David James clutching at thin air, despite the fact Drogba had hit it into the very corner the England goalkeeper was guarding.

There haven't been many free-kick goals in FA Cup finals – Stuart Pearce and Santi Cazorla spring to mind from the modern era – but this had the added gravitas of being the winner.

Alex v Arsenal, 2010/11

If there was a contest between Hasselbaink and Alex as to which Chelsea player had the hardest shot of all time, the Brazilian would get our vote – just.

His job was to keep opposition strikers out, but he's best remembered at the Bridge for his ability to thwack one in from any distance, whether in open play or from set-pieces. And we know what you're thinking: how could we not choose his swerving effort against Liverpool in a thrilling Champions League tie?

However, this effort against Arsenal was so powerful he pulled a thigh muscle in the process of striking it, so we couldn't add insult to injury by not picking it!

Frank Lampard v Tottenham Hotspur, 2011/12

Think back to the early years of Lampard's glittering Chelsea career and pick out a goal which came from a free-kick. Struggling? Look back at what we said about Zola and practice making perfect, and consider which player our No8 spent hours on the training field alongside.

By the end of his time as a Blue, there were too many free-kick goals to mention as he mastered his technique – which basically involved hitting the sweet spot of the modern football to apply enough dip and swerve to deceive even the best goalkeepers. Just ask his former Blues team-mate Carlo Cudicini, who was between the posts for Spurs in an FA Cup semi-final when Lampard scored the pick of his free-kicks for the club.

Willian v Southampton, 2015/16

Our No22 made quite the habit of scoring from set-pieces a few years back, particularly in the Champions League, as he netted four times from free-kicks in the group stage alone during the 2015/16.

Last season saw him surpass the 10-goal mark for set-piece goals in a Chelsea shirt, joining an exclusive club, and for our money his best was the effort against Southampton which bore more than a passing resemblance to a Zola strike against Spurs from 2002.

David Luiz v Liverpool, 2016/17

In his first spell at Chelsea we became accustomed to seeing our Brazilian centre-half smash in free-kicks and it was fitting that his first goal after returning to the club came in such a fashion.

Simon Mignolet was still lining up his wall when David Luiz caught him out with the element of surprise, and if you fancy trying his technique at home, our No30 has even provided a few handy tips. ‘Some guys use the curve,’ he said, ‘but my ball is like when you play ping pong or table tennis. You touch the ball on the side to get top spin.’

Marcos Alonso v Tottenham Hotspur, 2017/18

The first Premier League goal scored at Wembley Stadium, which was Tottenham’s temporary home while their new stadium was being built, is one which will live long in the memory of every Chelsea fan.

Throughout 2017 it felt like Alonso could score from every free-kick he stood over, such was the pace and whip he could generate with his left foot, and this was arguably the pick of the bunch. That it came against Spurs in a 2-1 victory, which also saw him score the second goal, simply made it all the sweeter for a left-back who guaranteed himself cult-hero status at the Bridge as a result of that performance.

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