Recovering from 4-1 down against Ajax will go down as the Blues’ best comeback in a Champions League game. However, we’ve regularly turned ties around on the continent when our backs have been against the wall…
Prior to Tuesday night’s memorable contest between two frontrunners in Group H, no English side had earned something from a Champions League game after being three goals down since Liverpool’s famous triumph over AC Milan in the 2005 final in Istanbul.
Indeed, had it not been for the intervention of the VAR, we may well have turned a certain defeat into three points, only for Cesar Azpilicueta to see his potential match-winning strike ruled out for handball by Tammy Abraham.
Even so, it’s place as our greatest single-game comeback in a European game is secure for now, and it will join these famous continental comebacks in Blues folklore.
Chelsea had it all to do after going into this Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final, second leg 1-0 down and then conceding first on the night. That meant three goals were required if we were to make it to our first European final for 27 years. Gustavo Poyet got the ball rolling and Gianfranco Zola headed in a second and with one goal still required to win on aggregate, up popped Mark Hughes from the bench to volley the spectacular winner to send the crowd wild. The Blues would go on to defeat Stuttgart 1-0 in Stockholm to win our second Cup Winners' Cup.
Chelsea’s first European trophy success came in the 1971 Cup Winners’ Cup, but it required the mother of all comebacks against Bruges to help us along the way. The Blues were battered in the first leg and were lucky to come away with only a 2-0 defeat. But an early goal in the return by Peter Houseman gave us hope before Peter Osgood sent the tie to extra-time. Two more goals followed in the extra period and Chopper Harris and co. went on to lift the trophy after beating Real Madrid in the final.
In terms of performance, this comeback is probably the least memorable of the games we have selected – but when it comes to atmosphere, many supporters will argue it has rarely been bettered since this March evening. We were lucky to only be a goal down from the first leg thanks to goalkeeper Kevin Hitchcock’s heroics, but we drew level through Mark Stein’s close-range finish. The forward then crossed for strike partner Paul Furlong to finish off Bruges, as Stamford Bridge erupted. Although our Cup Winners’ Cup run ended in the semi-finals, it was one hell of a ride.
Okay, so this might be like the Bruges game in that a one-goal deficit was hardly the biggest to overcome. However, this was, quite simply, one of the greatest games in the history of Chelsea Football Club. Within 20 minutes of the second leg kicking off, Barca’s lead had been comprehensively wiped out as the Blues counter-attacked magnificently to fire home three goals in double-quick time through Eidur Gudjohnsen, Frank Lampard and Damien Duff. The mood at the Bridge went from euphoria to panic as a brace from Ronaldinho – one of which was the most remarkable of toe pokes – put us on the brink of an early exit. But then John Terry headed home a dramatic late winner on a night of high drama.
After a 3-1 first-leg defeat, Andre Villas-Boas left the club to be replaced as manager by Chelsea cup-final hero Roberto Di Matteo – and the Italian inspired a monumental turnaround in the return match. Didier Drogba, John Terry and Frank Lampard netted to send the tie to extra-time, at which point Branislav Ivanovic netted a spectacular winner to send Stamford Bridge wild. The Blues, of course, went on to lift the Champions League trophy at the end of that season.