When you’re sixteen your eighteenth birthday and driving licence seem like a lifetime away. At forty you blink and the next thing you know you’re bloody fifty years old.
To get over this extremely depressing fact of life I trawled through my fading memory bank to recall my top 12 Chelsea goals of the naughties and have them saved on my computer for when my memory and I part company permanently.
What makes a great goal? The aesthetic element is an important factor but as far as I am concerned the context in which they have been scored also contributes to make a goal memorable. So using that criteria, my favourite twelve goals of the naughties in ascending order of merit are:
12. Eidur Gudjohnsen vs Leeds. On strictly technical merit this would have been much closer to the top but coming in a mundane league game it sometimes gets lost in the mist of time. Lamps dug out a cross from the right and Eidur completed the perfect scissors kick past the hapless Leeds goalie.
11. Gianfranco Zola vs Norwich. Like Eidur’s goal if I were judging the goals strictly on technical merit this would definitely be in the top two. Being as it came in an FA Cup replay and we were three up the effect was more aesthetic than actual. But what a goal. Corner from the right and Franco back heeled the ball in mid-air to remind us once again, if ever we needed reminded, that he was the most skillful player ever to pull on the blue shirt. And probably the nicest too.
10. Jesper Gronkjaer vs Liverpool. This is where context comes in. May 2003 and we are tottering on the brink of financial ruin. We have to at least draw against the scummy Scousers in the last game of the season to get into the Champions League. Hyppia puts them 1-0 up and Desailly equalizes just a few minutes later. Some ten minutes later Jesper Gronkjaer, possibly the most infuriating Chelsea player of the naughties, gets the ball on the right. The crowd holds it breath and the fans in the Shed End dive for cover. But Jesper has a pot at goal (or was it a cross?), the ball ends in the back of the net and Champions League here we come. As does Roman Abramovich a couple of months later.
9. William Gallas vs Spurs. It’s the first home game after Ossie passed away and what better way to remember the great man than by beating Spurs. A 1-1 draw is on the cards until in injury time Gallas cuts in from the left and unleashes an unbelievable shot into the far corner. I swear I looked up at the sky and saw Ossie smile.
8. Didier Drogba vs United. FA Cup Final 2007. Injuries deprive us of a third league title in a row and we go into an FA Cup Final against United with a patched up defence. As the dreaded penalty shoot out looms Didier does a one-two with Frank on the edge of the area and steers the ball past Van der Sar. It might have been a turgid game but what a sweet ending.
7. Frank Lampard vs Barcelona. It’s the group stages of the Champions League and we have to get something at the Camp Nou to make sure we go on to the knockout stages of the competition. It’s 2-1 to the Catalans with minutes left. Frank gets the ball on the Barca by-line. We, and the Barca defence for that matter, expect a cross but Frank has other ideas and curls the ball in from the most impossible of angles. In fact from no angle at all.
6. Michael Essien vs Arsenal. Arsenal are a goal up with a few minutes left. Our unbeaten home record is in serious jeopardy. Cue Michael Essien. Lamps lays the ball back into his path and from about 30 yards out Essien lets loose a shot that at first glance looks like it’s a yard off target. But what is does is curl through the air to squeeze past the goalie’s (if you call Almunia a goalkeeper) right post. Genius.
5. Didier Drogba vs Liverpool. It’s the third Champions League semi final against Liverpool. Extra time at the Bridge. Lamps put us ahead for the second time on the night with a penalty but one goal would have put Liverpool in the final. Anelka beats the offside trap on our right, Didier peels towards the near post and manages to squeeze the ball in the few inches between Reina and the near post. Champions League Final at last.
4. Alex vs Liverpool. We all thought it was going to be a formality after the 3-1 lead from Anfield a week before but the Scousers had taken a 2-0. Drogba pulled one back and we have a free kick, probably closer to the half way line than the Liverpool goal. Alex strikes the ball as only a Brazilian (and Michael Essien) can and the net at the Matthew Harding End of the ground has some serious work to do.
3. Wayne Bridge vs Arsenal. Whatever water passes under the bridge (excuse the multiple pun), this goal will forever stay in the hearts of every Chelsea fan. Bridgey starts a run on the half way line, plays a one two with Eidur and the next thing we know he’s in the corner of the ground celebrating with the Chelsea fans. The Arsenal hoodoo is finally broken and what a game to do it in.
2. Frank Lampard vs Bolton. This is the goal that ended the fifty year wait. Frank had already put us one up at the Reebok but this goal on the counter attack from a Bolton corner finally made us believe that WE WERE THE CHAMPIONS.
1. John Terry vs Barcelona. It’s been billed as the game of the century. The incidents in the first leg, the three goal lead we threw away in the first half and the scintillating play by both sides meant that every Chelsea fan went into the last fifteen minutes of this game on the brink of a life threatening heart attack. I was sitting in the West stand in line with the edge of the Barca penalty area. As Damian Duff walked up to take the corner I was shouting what the hell was he doing taking a corner from that side of the pitch. Five seconds later JT rises above the Barca defence, Carvalho gives the Barca goalie a little tug of the shirt, Collina doesn’t mind and we’re through and Barca are out.