The rules were simple: 5 bloggers, 4 rounds, snake draft. David picked first, then Yatco, Graham, André, and Rohaan. 20 goals in total.
All goals eligible except Didier Drogba’s equalizer in the 2012 Champions League final. Too obvious.
In reverse order, these are our favorite, greatest, bestest (however each of us interpreted the rules) Chelsea goals. You will probably disagree, but you’re probably wrong.
Fernando Torres vs. Barcelona, 2012
We have had the pleasure of celebrating a variety of goals in this series and what makes them special already.
We have memorialized moments of individual brilliance and technical ability, praised mouth-watering sequences of beautiful team goals, and gazed upon long-range efforts that left us in awe as we repeatedly replayed the ball’s trajectory in slow motion.
Then there are the goals that we remember for how they make us feel.
And few, if any in history, made us feel like like Fernando Torres scoring against Barcelona at the Camp Nou in 2012. It is the quintessential chef’s kiss to cap off the momentous comeuppance against Barcelona in the Champions League.
We recapped much of the rich competitive history up to 2005 between Chelsea and Barcelona in the last goal of this series. Since then, Chelsea and Barcelona continued to clash in the Champions League. A crucial inflection point was the travesty at the Bridge overseen by Tom Henning Øvrebø.
The way that semi-final ended was more than a defeat. It felt even worse than a heartbreak. The extended stoppage time allowed wherein Andrés Iniesta scored at the death to send Barcelona to the finals felt worse than a gut punch. The manner with which the match and the two-legged tie concluded was unjust. Fairness was thrown out the window. The ending left a bitter taste, which would go on unresolved for three years.
Who better than Fernando Torres to be the one to cap off the end to Barcelona’s grandstanding as Europe’s champion? At that point, Chelsea’s record singing had already spent well over a year at the club, spectacularly underperforming under the weight of expectations (and price tag).
Removing all context and emotion, Torres’ goal is not an artistic goal of sublime technique, nor beautiful in the way of telepathic link-ups of multiple players acting as one. It’s not a thunderous banger. It didn’t even clinch the two-legged tie in Chelsea’s favor.
On its own, it is a hilarious example of a player bearing down his opponent’s goal all alone — the TV camera struggling to catch up — with only the goalkeeper to beat. If it were any player other than Torres, you would likely not even dare to wonder how a 1-v-1 moment form the halfway line could not result in a goal.
The true beauty of this goal lies in the context and the meaning. It is not just about the audio of Gary Neville having a goalgasm. Or the “£50m repaid” as the oft-heard line proclaimed. This goal was the final blow to Guardiola’s Barcelona. It capped off Chelsea’s unresolved need for revenge after the 2009 Champions League semi-final. And, it gave new life and meaning to Torres’ tenure and his legacy with Chelsea.
The version of Torres donning Chelsea blue was antithetical to the version in Liverpudlian red, which ran rampant against Chelsea for multiple seasons prior to switching allegiances in January 2011. As much as we may hold athletes in high regard, we sometimes forget that they are human after all. Knee and hamstring injuries contributed to a humbling downfall of one of the world’s most feared strikers.
I look back at this goal and think of it as catharsis personified. Torres was not every Chelsea fan’s cup of tea. For many, he was expensive, unnecessary, and underwhelming. For many others, he was expensive and a reluctant underdog. But while some saw his emotionality as the be-all and end-all of a player bereft of confidence, I shaded towards the glass half full approach, seeing a player frustrated at one’s own body working against one’s own mind.
But in this moment — it felt as if all the frustration and suffering harbored within Fernando and Chelsea was exorcised.
Torres’ tenure with Chelsea would continue to ebb and flow in the subsequent years. He would never quite reach the heights to actually justify his transfer. But for a player maligned with injuries and the pressure of expectations, it is inescapable to leave this goal out of our memories.
The second leg of the semi-final at the Camp Nou was an intense affair. It was backs to the wall against one of the best teams ever assembled. In the early minutes of the game, Gary Cahill was forced off due to injury. John Terry was sent off not long after for the infamous knee barge into the back of Alexis Sánchez, leaving Chelsea with ten men for well over a half. Despite Ramires’ majestic chip to put Chelsea back ahead on aggregate, Barcelona were storming Chelsea’s goal at every opportunity.
It was nothing short of miracle that Chelsea survived, with Lionel Messi hitting the woodwork twice, one of those from the penalty spot, even.
Previously, I posed that Torres’ time with Chelsea was a stark contrast to his earlier career form. His goal in the Camp Nou was also antithetical to everything Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona represented. Torres’ goal was as far removed from the tiki-taka synonymous with Barca as possible. It was as ‘route one football’ as route one football gets. It was a direct counterattack against the run of play where Barcelona had all ten outfield players in Chelsea’s defensive third.
Torres was brought on as a secondary make-shift left back. He had made at least two reckless attempts to dribble past Barcelona’s counter-press. As frustrating as his instinctual notion to put his head down and surge forward, it is important to recall that Chelsea had no outlet. With no striker tactically, the only other choice was to boot the ball back into Barcelona’s empty half.
On his last failed attempt to dribble through Barcelona, Torres stayed further up within Chelsea’s own half — a maddening act on its own with the team hanging on by the last few atoms of a frayed thread. But in this case, it meant that he was all alone when Ashley Cole booted the ball clear. The rest, as they say, was written in the stars.
Everything about the 2011-12 Champions League campaign was magical and legendary. The narrative and subplots over the course of that campaign read as if written for a most unrealistic Hollywood sports movie. We can’t help but laugh and wonder to this day how it all happened.
We’ll always have
Paris the Camp Nou, Fernando.
WAGNH’s Best and Most Beautifulest Chelsea Goals Draft 2020:
No.9: Fernando Torres vs. Barcelona, 2012
No.10: Damien Duff vs. Barcelona, 2005
No.11: Wayne Bridge vs. Arsenal, 2004
No.12: Raul Meireles vs. Benfica, 2012
No.13: Gianfranco Zola vs. Wimbledon, 1997
No.14: Arjen Robben vs. Norwich City, 2004
No.15: Claude Makélélé vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 2006
No.16: Oscar vs. Juventus, 2012
No.17: Bethany England vs. Birmingham City, 2019
No.18: Demba Ba vs. Manchester United, 2013
No.19: André Schürrle vs. Burnley, 2014
No.20: Alex vs. Liverpool, 2009