There were some familiar faces back at the Bridge on Sunday night to raise smiles and plenty of money as our stadium for the first time hosted Soccer Aid.
Stamford Bridge in mid-June is usually pretty quiet but that was certainly far from the case this particular summer evening when one of the biggest charity-meets-sport-on-live-TV extravaganzas took place in front of a sell-out crowd and millions watching back home.
The aim was to raise funds for Unicef, but there was also the chance for plenty of fun and some football nostalgia too – and although the crowd had a mix of team loyalties, it was no surprise to hear such loud cheers for the likes of John Terry and Didier Drogba when they were introduced before kick-off.
Plenty of Chelsea fans were in the house, and the Blues were well-represented by former players on the pitch too, with Michael Essien, Ricardo Carvalho, Joe Cole and Glen Johnson joining JT and Didier in the mix of sports people and celebrities taking part in the England and the World XI teams.
Former Chelsea Women captain Katie Chapman was one of several females playing too. Soccer Aid was breaking new ground by including men and women on the same pitch, working alongside the Football Association as part of an on-going study into mixed adult participation in the sport.
In the end the contest was decided by penalties when the match had ended 2-2 after 90 minutes, and despite Drogba not being able to take a crucial decider on this occasion, it was still his World XI side that ended triumphant.
Hollywood star Tom Hanks had kicked the match off, and quickly retreated from the pitch along with the camera crews to let the football begin, and speaking of quick movers, there were a couple of times in the opening 10 minutes when the legendary Usain Bolt, sporting his world-record time of 9.58 as his shirt number, looked set to sprint through on goal but the England defence, with Terry and Jamie Carragher (who did not get such a warm reception from the crowd as our captain, leader, legend!) dealt with that danger okay.
Essien went for a familiar surge up the middle of the pitch before turning and having a shot blocked, so instead it was our former right-back Glen Johnson, gracing the midfield tonight, who had the match’s first proper chance, saved by Julio Cesar.
The former Inter Milan keeper, who played at the Bridge last year in the Legends game when Inter Forever took on Chelsea’s class of ’98, had a good night, later keeping out a shot from Chelsea fan and TV and radio presenter Marvin Humes, but he could not prevent football freestyler Jeremy Lynch from opening the scoring for the England side. Lynch netted a second England goal before half-time but there was still time before the interval for Bolt to make his mark, with a tidy low finish after Carragher let a ball bounce over his head.
Drogba graced the early part of the second half with the pass of the night and there were plenty of boos when referee Mark Clattenburg failed to give a penalty for a challenge on Joe Cole. More frustration for the Chelsea fans followed when a Carragher goal-mouth block prevented the goal they really wanted to see from Drogba.
At the other end, comedian Lee Mack, with his own 95.8 take on the Usain Bolt shirt number, could have increased the England side’s lead but instead volleyed into the Matthew Harding Stand.
Cole was not far away from finding the net with a shot well saved and Terry had a stinging half-volley stopped as well – before Mack sent the rebound into the stand again. Instead it was the World XI who found the net – former Love Island contestant Kem getting the better of JT and co to make the final score 2-2 with a late equaliser.
So onto penalties – all taken by celebrities – and with the England side having already missed two, when Lee Mack’s attempt was saved, the night belonged to the World XI side.