Memorable nights at the Bridge

I consider myself lucky to have a season ticket at Chelsea, and to be able to watch the Blues on a regular basis. It’s something I’m really grateful for. There are some games, however, which make me feel incredibly fortunate to be able to watch live, and where the ticket in my hand feels like pure gold. Chelsea’s Champions League game against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge yesterday evening was one of those games.

It’s the type of fixture that players, managers and fans alike, relish. Nothing beats a European evening at the Bridge. The atmosphere was palpable as soon as you stepped off the train at Fulham Broadway. I was so nervous I forgot to get something to eat for dinner.

When I got to my seat in the West Lower, those sat in the Matthew Harding stand were already singing. All four corners of the Bridge sang along to ‘Blue is the Colour’ and ‘the Liquidator’, and the atmosphere within the ground was simply electric. Over in the far corner of the Shed End, the Barcelona supporters waved their Catalonian flags, while each Blues fan had been given a flag emblazoned with the Chelsea crest. The ‘Pride of London’ banner made its way across the Matthew Harding and ‘The Shed’ was held aloft at the opposite end of the pitch.

Conte had mentioned previously that he wasn’t sure what his starting line-up would be for this game. When the starting XI was announced, there were a few doubting comments on social media regarding the ‘false nine’ approach. But what followed in the next 90 minutes was a Conte tactical masterclass and a near perfect Chelsea display.

It was an outstanding team performance from top to bottom, where every Chelsea player came into their own. Barcelona had the majority of possession, as expected, but it’s what you do with the ball that matters. Willian was incredible and ran the Barcelona defence ragged. His goal was fully deserved, having previously hit the post twice. Our defence looked solid – Toni Rudiger made some brilliant interceptions, especially in the second half, while Andreas Christensen looked composed and dealt with the vast majority that the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez threw at him, and Azpilicueta gave a real captain’s performance.

It was the type of game where you are constantly up and out of your seat. The support from the Blues fans was immense and noise came from at least one corner of Stamford Bridge throughout the evening. In fact, when Willian scored I nearly ended up several rows away from where I was actually sitting!

It was a Chelsea performance that we can all be extremely proud of. It was disappointing to have conceded the equaliser and I feel the score didn’t really reflect the brilliant effort of the players. But when you leave feeling disappointed with a draw against Barcelona, you know you’ve done something right.

It is all to play for at the Camp Nou in three weeks’ time. As Conte said after the game, we will try to do ‘something incredible’ in the second leg. They doubted us all in 2012, and looked what happened there. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again. Come on Chelsea!