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.
Wayne Bridge vs. Arsenal, 2004
Some goals are memorable because of the skill or technique involved. Some goals are memorable because of the occasion or the meaning. Some goals are memorable because of something personal associated with it.
And some goals are memorable because they combine all those into something far greater than the sum of its parts.
That’s Wayne Bridge scoring a late winner against Arsenal at the Emirates in the 2003-04 Champions League quarterfinals.
Let’s start with the skill.
The play begins with Chelsea switching play from right to left, inviting the left back to step up. Bridge accepts the invitation from Jesper Gronkjær (a man who knows a thing or two about scoring important goals in Chelsea history), and strides forward, full of purpose.
Known more for his crossing, Bridgey instead runs towards goal in a preview of more modern fullback play, and plays infield to Eidur Gudjohnsen — who missed an absolute sitter just a minute prior (Ashley Cole cleared off the line of course). Bridge then continues his bold run despite both teams playing it safe for most of the second half after Frank Lampard equalized early following an Arsenal goal on the stroke of half-time (thorn in Chelsea side José Antonio Reyes, RIP, with that one).
Eidur shapes his foot to provide the perfect return ball, straight through the defender’s legs and into Bridgey’s path, now beyond his markers and in space to shoot. Without hesitation belying a 9-goal career of nearly 500 appearances all told, he takes aim and shoots low. The angle isn’t the best for a left-footed strike, but he still finds the far corner beyond Jens Lehmann who seems just as befuddled to see Bridge shooting as the rest of the football world. (Lehmann had also spilled the equally befuddling shot from Claude Makélélé at the start of the half to allow Lampard to equalize. Thanks, Jens!)
It wasn’t the most spectacular strike, but it didn’t need to be. “Classy” finish, as the BBC called it. The clock read 87 minutes. Chelsea had done it. 3-2 on aggregate. Claudio Ranieri’s substitutions (pulling Scott Parker, shoehorned in on the right wing, at the half), then adding Joe Cole and Hernán Crespo late, paid off. The away end at Highbury went ballistic.
In terms of overall meaning, few come close to this goal, certainly as far as London rivalries are concerned.
We’ve become used to goals from the left back spot in the last few seasons thanks to Marcos Alonso, but it wasn’t always so. Ashley Cole is a legend and the scorer of one of the biggest shootout penalties in club history (and also the Arsenal left back in this game), but he wasn’t exactly a goal-machine with 7 strikes in 338 Chelsea appearances. His predecessor wasn’t much better in that regard either, with 4 tallies in 142 games. (Alonso by himself has twice as many as those two combined.)
But one of those shifted the balance of power in the London football universe.
These weren’t the Arsenal of today. These were none other than “The Invincibles”, who’d go on to win the 2003-04 Premier League without losing a single game. Sure, they drew many (12 of the 38 games), but unbeaten is unbeaten and inarguable — and still the only team to ever do it. Chelsea finished a distant 11 points behind in second place.
But Chelsea were in the first year of the Roman Era and while Claudio Ranieri would out-tinker himself in the next round of the Champions League in Monaco, the man who’d go on to win the Champions League that season was on his way to the Bridge, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Since 2004, Chelsea have won the league five times, added three European trophies, and eight domestic Cups. That’s 16 trophies, if you’re counting.
Arsenal have four FA Cups in that time.
London was red in 2004. It’s been blue ever since. This goal, in Arsenal’s own backyard, signaled that shift.
And on a personal note, this is one of those goals that’s etched into my brain not just as a Chelsea goal, but as a specific moment in a specific time in a specific place.
It’s a memory that’s associated not only about Chelsea winning, but an indelible part of my final weeks at university, associated with the experiences, the good times, the bad times, and the strange times, and the life-long friendships formed. Most of my friends were not football fans in the slightest, but we huddled in front of the television and for a minute, we were all Chelsea fans.
As I get older, especially in these socially distanced times, when I see this goal, I get to reminisce about all of that.
Thank you, Wayne Bridge.
(Oh, and before you even think about commenting on this post with anything to do with Bridge & Terry, don’t. And also, read this.)
Betrayal and bombast: the surreal story of the Terry v Bridge scandal | @jonathanliew https://t.co/R4eEiWf3jT— Guardian sport (@guardian_sport) May 3, 2020
WAGNH’s Best and Most Beautifulest Chelsea Goals Draft 2020:
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