As part of VAVEL UK's newest series in which we revisit classic matches from years gone by, we look back on one of the most thrilling ties in Champions League history.
The two sides in question, Chelsea and Barcelona, had experienced very different success in Europe before the 2004/05 season, but what would unfold in the second leg of their Round of 16 clash remains one of the most exciting ties since the turn of the century.
As February 23rd, 2005 rolled around, Chelsea and Barcelona were both leading their domestic leagues. The Round of 16 draw between the two quickly became one of the most anticipated ties of the tournament, and it would be Barcelona who took control of the tie with a 2-1 win in the first leg at the Camp Nou.
After finishing second in their group, Frank Rijkaard's men knew that they had to make a statement against one of Europe's hottest teams in Chelsea. The first leg started off poorly as Juliano Belletti turned a Damien Duff cross into his own net after half an hour. Didier Drogba's controversial red card turned the tide of the game, in turn allowing Maxi Lopez to equalise before Samuel Eto'o sealed a 2-1 win.
A first leg defeat against one of Europe's best meant that Jose Mourinho's Chelsea had a giant task on their hands heading into the second leg. Iconic referee Pierluigi Collina was placed in charge of the highly anticipated second leg, strengthening the importance and prolific nature of the game.
Chelsea Take Control Early
Nerves were at an all-time high around West London on the evening of March 7th as Chelsea aimed to turn around their first leg defeat. A typical, cold English night in March would be the setting for a truly memorable night for the club and the competition.
With Didier Drogba suspended, Jose Mourinho was forced to play Mateja Kezman as the lone frontman. The faith shown by Mourinho paid off almost immediately as Kezman provided a wonderful assist to Eidur Gudjohnsen inside seven minutes. Kezman drifted wide before rifling a low cross to Gudjohnsen, who beat his defender and slotted past Victor Valdes to give Chelsea a dream start.
Chelsea came close to doubling their lead just three minutes later as John Terry flicked on a corner to Frank Lampard, who fired over from close range. A golden chance missed by the Englishman, who would eventually make amends soon after. Only a quarter of an hour had gone by when Joe Cole burst down the right-hand side, cutting inside past Giovanni van Bronckhorst and firing towards goal. His shot took a huge deflection, which forced Valdes to parry the effort into the path of Lampard, who made no mistake from close range.
Chelsea were two up inside 15 minutes and leading 3-2 on aggregate, sending Stamford Bridge into a frenzy. They weren't finished with Barcelona as two minutes after making it 2-0, Damien Duff was on hand to make it 3-0 to the hosts and leave everyone inside the stadium speechless. After regaining possesion, Chelsea went on the counter attack and Joe Cole's perfectly weighted through ball to Duff allowed the Irishman to cooly finish past Valdes.
Despite being 3-0 down, Barcelona responded in typical Barcelona fashion and were awarded a penalty after Paulo Ferreira was judged to have handled a cross. Barcelona's talisman Ronaldinho stepped up and smashed his penalty past Petr Cech, who guessed the right way, to put Barcelona right back in the tie. Barcelona grabbed another just before the break thanks to a truly golden moment from Ronaldinho.
The Brazilian stood on the edge of the box, wrong-footed a couple of defenders and found the bottom corner with barely any backlift on his shot. A moment of sheer individual brilliance, which left Cech rooted to the spot and Chelsea fans watching in awe as Barcelona took the lead on aggregate, despite being down 3-2 on the night.
Captain to the rescue
With the score at 3-2 coming out of halftime, a spot in the Quarter-Finals was still up for grabs and neither side held back. Chelsea had a handful of chances to regain control of the tie after Joe Cole initially hit the post, before Lampard's close range header was saved moments later.
Barcelona then had chances of their own to put the tie to bed, most notably a diving header from Carlos Puyol but somehow, Cech managed to keep it from going over the line. Iniesta and Eto'o were next in the long line of "missed chances" as the former struck the inside of the post before Eto'o skied the rebound over the bar.
With both sides having plenty of golden chances, it would be Chelsea who would score the next goal to take them through. Duff's corner was met by John Terry, who was drifting away from goal, and the captain's header nestled into the bottom corner to make it 4-2 on the night, 5-4 to Chelsea on aggregate. Chelsea managed to hold on for a historic night in the club's history. An emphatic 4-2 win over one of Europe's top teams, which saw them into the next round.
Chelsea's Champions League run in the 2004/05 season continued until a defeat to Liverpool in the Semi-Final. Both sides went on to win their domestic leagues but the second leg of their Round of 16 tie will live long in the memories of Blues fans everywhere. In Jose Mourinho's first season in England, he had helped his side to defeat his former employer and make their mark on European football for the first time in seven years.
The Blues had proven their worth to the rest of Europe by defeating the mighty Barcelona and they did it in spectacular fashion. From the joy of being 3-0 up inside 20 minutes, to being on the verge of elimination at halftime. Terry's header to win it for the Blues will forever be engraved in Chelsea history, as well as the mindblowing opening half an hour.