History

Champions League Years: Remembering when Essien secured one of our best European results

Champions League Years: Valencia v Chelsea (A) 2006/07

Ahead of a crucial trip to Valencia this week, you can view highlights and read about a legendary victory against the same opposition as part of the Champions League Years series, now available to watch on the 5th Stand app

Deep into the night on 10 April 2007 all but some 2,500 incarcerated Chelsea fans had left Estadio Mestalla. His well-chosen words having been dispensed to the media, Jose Mourinho walked out to praise the supporters who had made the trip and could now share an almost intimate moment with the coach. The 2-1 victory remains one of the most impressive results in Chelsea’s European history. You can watch the highlights above and see how the full European campaign panned out on the 5th Stand app

In the pre-match conference Joe Cole had put into words the thoughts of many when he suggested it would take one of Chelsea’s ‘best-ever performances’ to reach the semi-finals after the 1-1 draw at the Bridge in leg one.

And with Arjen Robben sidelined following a knee operation, Mourinho was expected to turn to the England midfielder for the mercurial skills to unlock the Spaniards’ rearguard.

Instead, the Portuguese went for a belt-and-braces midfield of Michael Ballack, John Mikel Obi, and Lassana Diarra, with Michael Essien at right-back to help counter the threat posed by David Silva and Fernando Morientes.

The strategy failed. By half-time the hosts were 1-0 up through Morientes – his third in seven games against the Londoners, and he had already hit the post. Mourinho was a risk-taker, however, so Joe Cole came on for Diarra after the break and Essien began marauding forward.

It was the Ghana international who initiated the attack that restored aggregate parity for the Blues. His searching diagonal cross into the box found Didier Drogba, whose attempt was crowded out. The ball broke kindly for strike partner Andriy Shevchenko, however, and the Ukrainian steered home from close range.

In the closing stages, stripped of the calming presence of the injured midfielder Raul Albiol, panic gnawed away at the hosts. Although the momentum was all with the Londoners clear-cut chances were rare, though with five minutes to go Santiago Canizares pawed away Ballack’s header from a Frank Lampard set-piece. It felt like something extraordinary was needed.

Then deep into the allowance for stoppages, just before extra-time was required, substitute Cole laid the ball off for Sheva, who in turn worked it down the flank for Essien, charging like an express train. The man known as the Bison took the ball in his stride then sent a howitzer past Valencia keeper Canizares at his near post.

It was a sensational moment, and there was no way back for Los Che. Chelsea had become the first English side to conquer Valencia’s fortress in four decades, and the only team to win there over that Champions League campaign. A special achievement well worth celebrating.

By Rick Glanvill, club historian

Go behind the scenes, hear the inside story and relieve every moment, from Moscow to Munich, by watching all The Champions League Years episodes on the 5th Stand app.

Each episode of The Champions League Years tells the story of one of the Blues’ Champions League campaign, from our first appearance in 1999/2000 right through until that glorious night in Munich.

Watch all the shows by downloading the 5th Stand app. Once you have downloaded the app, go to the Watch section and you will be able to find all The Champions League Years shows.

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