On the 20th anniversary of our FA Cup win in the last final at the old Wembley, we revisit our route to glory that year. There were new signings and new scorers, a couple of unprecedented Cup quirks not to be repeated, and one of the great individual Chelsea performances.
Chelsea lifted the FA Cup for the third time in our history on 20 May 2000. The final might not have been a classic, but silverware was a fitting end to an epic campaign that included a run to the Champions League quarter-finals. Round by round, we retell the Blues FA Cup story of 1999/00…
Third round, 11 December 1999: Hull City 1 Chelsea 6
Controversially, the third round took place before Christmas and not at the start of the year. ‘It is down to the football calendar, which we are actively seeking to find a solution to domestically and within Europe,’ explained the FA’s David Davies amid plenty of criticism. The low gates, including banks of empty seats at Aston Villa and Leeds, suggested Christmas shopping was on people’s agenda, not football. The prestige of the competition had also taken a hit when Manchester United did not enter to defend their trophy, choosing instead to participate in the new World Club Championship in Brazil.
Fresh from a goalless draw with Lazio in Rome’s Olympic Stadium, Chelsea made light work of bottom-of-the-Third-Division-table Hull City at the slightly less prestigious Boothferry Park. Chris Sutton scored his third and final Chelsea goal, Gus Poyet netted his only Blues hat-trick, and youngster Jon Harley recorded a trio of assists. Cupset avoided.
Fourth round, 19 January 2000: Chelsea 2 Nottingham Forest 0
Unusually our fourth round tie was played midweek, 10 days after the rest of the competition, because Nottingham Forest’s third round replay against Oxford United just before Christmas was postponed due to bad weather. When it did finally take place, First Division Forest overcame a scare to beat Oxford, thus avoiding a repeat of our 1999 fourth round tie.
At the Bridge, Chelsea laboured to victory thanks to second-half headers from Frank Leboeuf and Dennis Wise. Harley was again excellent, with former Blue Dave Beasant the visitors’ best performer. In a replay at Filbert Street the same night, Leicester beat Arsenal on penalties, so our next opponents would be the Foxes.
Fifth round, 30 January 2000: Chelsea 2 Leicester City 1
All the pre-match talk was of our dramatic meeting with the same side at the same stage in 1997, en route to winning the Cup. Would lightning strike twice?
The answer was yes, although in more comfortable circumstances. Against a resolute, defensive Leicester, Gus Poyet’s speculative overhead kick opened the scoring, slipping through Peggy Arphexhad’s grasp. The keeper was not to repeat his ’97 heroics. We doubled our lead after the break through George Weah, who finished clinically on the run in his first FA Cup game after signing. A red card apiece - ours, naturally, given to Dennis Wise - and a late Leicester consolation couldn’t stop our progress. With Leeds beaten by a Benito Carbone-inspired Villa, we were now the outright favourites to win the Cup.
Sixth round, 20 February 2000: Chelsea 5 Gillingham 0
This game is most notable for being the one in which John Terry scored the first of his 67 Chelsea goals. Chelsea cruised against soon-to-be-promoted, third-tier Gillingham. They had beaten top-flight Bradford and Sheffield Wednesday in the previous two rounds, but came unstuck at the Bridge.
Tore Andre Flo, George Weah, Gianfranco Zola and Jody Morris were the other scorers, but it was Terry’s powerful header that grabbed the headlines.
Semi-final, 9 April 2000: Chelsea 2 Newcastle United 1 (Wembley)
Our eighth semi-final in seven years was against the FA Cup runners-up in the previous two tournaments, and came just four days after the memorable 3-1 win over Barcelona. Under Bobby Robson, Newcastle had pulled away from the relegation zone and were ensconced in mid-table. Their season rested on this game, a chance to keep hopes of ending three trophy-less decades alive.
Vialli made six changes to the team that started against Barca, with Poyet one of those to come in. The Uruguayan delivered with a stunning brace, almost single-handedly winning a tie Newcastle had the better of. His first goal, a delicate lob, put us ahead on the quarter-hour; his second, a looping header with 20 minutes left, restored our advantage shortly after Rob Lee equalised. The Blues held on, breaking Geordie hearts, and though Vialli admitted we had got away with it, Chelsea would contest the last FA Cup final at the original Wembley Stadium.
Final, 20 May 2000: Chelsea 1 Aston Villa 0 (Wembley)
The league meetings between the 2000 Cup finalists ended 1-0 (to Chelsea, courtesy of an own goal) and 0-0. The Blues had the second-best defence in the league, Villa the third, but both teams found goals hard to come by. It all pointed to another tight, low-scoring encounter, and so it proved. In the first final of the century and the last under the Twin Towers, Roberto Di Matteo’s goal 17 minutes from time settled a cagey affair that did not live long in the memory of neutrals watching.
Nonetheless, Chelsea improved markedly in the second half and were worthy winners. Before Di Matteo’s third goal in successive Wembley finals (this time capitalising on a David James fumble), Weah had three chances to open the scoring, and Wise a goal disallowed. Marcel Desailly and Frank Leboeuf were rock solid in the heart of defence, keeping Chelsea thorn Dion Dublin quiet, and Mario Melchiot had an excellent game at right-back in only his sixth appearance for the club, winning the free-kick from which we netted the only goal.
Victory guaranteed us a place in the following season’s UEFA Cup (sparing us Intertoto football to qualify), and ended a season of significant ups and down on a real high. Wembley winners once more. It was becoming quite the habit.
You can watch the final in full below...