Ahead of another Champions League campaign starting for Chelsea, Frank Lampard and Petr Cech have reflected on our greatest night in the competition and the years of preparation and heartbreak that led up to it.
The duo, who both returned to Stamford Bridge in the summer, were absolutely integral to our victory over Bayern Munich in 2012. Cech’s heroics in keeping out three German penalties are well known, while Lampard produced a masterful display from the deeper midfield position he regularly occupied towards the end of his illustrious career.
He now leads the Blues back to Europe’s top table as our boss, starting with the visit of Valencia today. It gives him the perfect excuse to reflect on his introduction to the competition, 16 years ago, and the dramatic events that followed.
‘I remember the first Champions League games I played in, it would have been early to mid-2000s with Claudio Ranieri,’ said Lampard.
‘I remember a game against Lazio that we played at home, we won 2-1, and the actual shivers of hearing the music, in the line-up before the game, and I thought "Wow! This is the thing, this is the real deal!", with an evening game at Stamford Bridge and all of that.
‘I had lots of ups and downs, we tried and fought to get to finals, we lost one, and then the culmination of that, to win at Munich, and to win in the circumstances we did - as underdogs in their home stadium - the ride we’d had to get there was crazy; it was the stuff of movies.’
Didier Drogba’s late header cancelled out Thomas Muller’s opener in Munich sending the game to extra-time. There Cech guessed right – and dived left – to deny former Blue Arjen Robben from 12 yards. Penalties beckoned and even though the ‘hosts’ went ahead after Juan Mata’s miss, Cech saved their final two spot-kicks giving Drogba the chance to win us the cup. He made no mistake.
‘In the preparation for the game, I watched every Bayern penalty since 2007,’ Cech, now the club’s technical and performance advisor, recently recalled.
‘It took a really long time to see them all and to kind of make a good picture. And I think in the end, it paid off. It’s always a bit of luck when you always go the right way. You had Lahm and I touched, and Gomez and I was close. With Neuer, I thought he would shoot higher then suddenly no. I went always on the right side. When Olic stepped in, I knew that I had to save that one and I believed that I would.
‘And actually, the last one, the reason why I saved it was actually that early in the footage of those penalties from 2007 until all the way to 2012, there was a period where Schweinsteiger was shooting penalties like that - every time he sort of stopped, he shot to the left side of the keeper.
‘So the moment he stopped in that final, I knew that he shoots there and that’s what gave me a good chance to make the save. The preparation really paid off. But you need a bit of luck as well because nothing is 100 per cent. That day it worked.’
There is no doubt in Lampard’s mind that night in Bavaria was the pinnacle of his club career, and something he dreams of repeating now he’s in charge.
‘The best Champions League moment is the moment that Didier Drogba’s penalty hit the back of the net in Munich. I didn’t enjoy the game, I didn’t enjoy it at all. It was painful trying to hang on in there, and trying to get the game to penalties in the end. But the moment that the ball hit the back of the net was sensational.
‘When anyone asks me about my career, I cannot help but have that as the moment that jumps out at me. That’s what the Champions League is. If I’d have finished my career without that on my CV, then I would have certainly felt incomplete, and I think this club would be incomplete.
‘To win the Champions League with Chelsea, the first London club to do so, is something that we’re all proud of at this club, and it gives me the determination to take on the Champions League again, as a manager.’