During the 2007-08 Premier League season, there was very little to separate Chelsea and Manchester United. As it was, the latter of those two clubs were crowned champions by a two-point margin from the 38 fixtures.
However, the West Londoners were presented with an immediate opportunity to gain revenge when they met United in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium six years ago today to contest that campaign’s Champions League final.
Following some sparring during the opening exchanges, it was the Premier League winners that started to dominate the contest, with Cristiano Ronaldo in particular causing problems to Chelsea’s makeshift right-back Michael Essien. As it turned out, it was the Ghanaian that was exploited as United broke the deadlock in the 26th minute.
After exchanging passes with Paul Scholes, Wes Brown sent over a cross from the right flank towards the back post. Ronaldo rose early to meet the ball and with Essien’s feet planted on the ground, the Portuguese attacker headed his 42nd goal of the season just inside Petr Cech’s upright.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men were in the ascendancy and had two further chances in quick succession to double their advantage, both of which fell to Carlos Tevez. The Argentine, though, couldn’t convert either of them, with one being stopped by Cech, while he failed to make contact with Wayne Rooney’s cross when unmarked.
Chelsea would go on to make the most of those let offs just before the break when Frank Lampard drew them level. Essien tried his luck from 25 yards out, only for his shot to deflect off both Rio Ferdinand andNemanja Vidic. The ball broke kindly for Lampard, who then made the most of a slip from United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar to lift an effort into an empty net.
That goal transformed Chelsea and it was they that looked the more likely to score a winning goal during the second half. Didier Drogba came closest when his curling shot from distance struck the post in the 77th minute, but neither side could breach the other’s net for a second time, which forced the match into extra-time.
The woodwork again came to United’s rescue during the added 30 minutes as Lampard hit the crossbar from close range, while up the other end captain John Terry diverted Ryan Giggs’s goalbound effort over.
What would turn out to be one of the game’s most crucial moments then occurred in the 116th minute. Following a clash which involved the majority of players from both teams, Drogba was seen by the referee to have slapped Vidic around the face. Chelsea’s Ivorian was red carded, meaning that he would not be available to take one of the penalties during the upcoming shootout.
Both teams converted their opening two kicks, before Ronaldo fluffed his lines. He stopped during his run up and then saw Cech parry away his effort to give Chelsea the advantage. Lampard and Ashley Cole then found the net, as did United’s Owen Hargreaves and Nani, but it still meant that The Blues had match point.
Ordinarily, Drogba would have taken Chelsea’s final kick – just as he would do in Munich four years later. With the marksman off the pitch, the responsibility fell to Terry. The centre-back sent Van der Sar the wrong way, but he slipped, contributing to his shot cannoning wide off the post.
United made the most of their reprieve as successful kicks from Anderson and Giggs sandwiched one from Chelsea’s Salomon Kalou. It meant that Nicolas Anelka had to score to keep Chelsea in with a shout of the trophy, but Van der Sar gambled correctly, pushing away the Frenchman’s effort to seal a third European crown for United.
Speaking after the celebrations, Ronaldo said: I thought we were going to lose. I had played well and scored but I had missed my penalty and it felt like the worst day of my life. The lads did a proper job and I feel very proud for them. It means everything to me – now it is the happiest day of my life.’
Meanwhile, speaking of his emotional teammate Terry, Lampard added: ‘He’s Mr Chelsea. He wants this more than anyone. He has the strength to stand up and take it.’ Manager Avram Grant also weighed in with: ‘JT is the main reason we are here. We had a difficult time and he is part of the team.’
MAN UNITED: Van der Sar; Brown (Anderson), Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Hargreaves, Scholes (Giggs), Carrick, Ronaldo; Tevez, Rooney (Nani)
CHELSEA: Cech; Essien, Carvalho, Terry, A Cole; Ballack, Makelele (Belletti), Lampard, J Cole (Anelka), Malouda (Kalou); Drogba
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