Chelsea’s 2011-12 season was arguably the most eventful campaign of the Roman Abramovich era, as the Blues defied the odds to win the UEFA Champions League for the first time in their illustrious history. At the start of the season, highly-rated manager Andre Villas-Boas was appointed at the helm of Stamford Bridge, as he replaced the outgoing Carlo Ancelotti.
The Portuguese tactician made his name with FC Porto -- much like a certain Jose Mourinho -- and became the youngest manager in history to win a European competition, as he did so with the Liga NOS side in the 2010-11 season. His appointment, however, did not go as planned, as Chelsea blew hot and cold at the start of the season.
Chelsea faced Valencia, Bayer Leverkusen and Genk in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League and were made to wait until matchday six to secure qualification to the knockout stages. After two wins and a draw in their first three games, Chelsea drew 1-1 away at Genk and were beaten 2-1 in stoppage time by Bayer Leverkusen, as they faced the prospect of elimination.
However, they recorded a convincing 3-0 victory against Valencia in their last game to secure qualification to the knockout stages. Chelsea took on Napoli in the knockout stages and their performance in the first leg raised eyebrows, as they were beaten 3-1 in Naples. Villas-Boas dropped several key players for the game and was slated for his team selection, as Chelsea were left with a mountain to climb in the second leg. It proved to be his last European game in charge of the Blues, as he was sacked midway through his first season at the club.
Assistant manager Roberto Di Matteo was appointed interim manager, and the rest, as they say, is history. Chelsea pulled off a sensational comeback in the second leg to win the tie 5-4 on aggregate against Napoli, as Lampard emerged as the matchwinner on the night with an extra-time goal.
The Blues then faced Benfica in the quarterfinals and won both legs to make it through to the semifinals, with Raul Meireles’ strike in the second leg the pick of their goals in the tie. Despite sacking their manager midway through the season, they made it through to the semifinals of Europe’s biggest club competition, as the feel-good factor had returned after Di Matteo’s appointment.
Their semi-final tie against Barcelona proved to be one for the history books, as they once again defied the odds to book their spot in the final. After a smash-and-grab victory in the first leg at Stamford Bridge -- courtesy of a Didier Drogba goal -- Chelsea traveled to the Camp Nou for the second leg.
Barcelona raced to a two-goal lead on the night through goals from Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta, but Ramires scored one of the most important goals in the club’s history with a delightful chip to level the tie on aggregate.
Barcelona pushed for the winning goal in the dying moments of the game, with Chelsea leading on away goals after Ramires’ strike. However, the Blues iced the cake in stoppage time, as Fernando Torres rounded Victor Valdes to score the goal that sealed the game for his side.
Against Bayern Munich in the final, Chelsea once again left it late at the Allianz Arena. Thomas Muller’s 83-minute goal looked to be enough for the Bavarian giants, but Drogba’s towering header restored parity on the night and forced extra time. Neither side was able to put the ball into the back of the net in the 30 minutes that were added, as the European Cup final was set to be decided on penalties for the first time since 2008.
After Ivica Olic and Bastian Schweinsteiger missed their penalties for Bayern Munich, Drogba knew he could win the UEFA Champions League for Chelsea if he put away his penalty. The Ivorian did just that, as he sent Manuel Neuer the wrong way and raced away in celebration.
The legendary striker stepped up when it mattered the most, but Petr Cech’s heroics in the penalty shootout cannot be overstated. The Czech shot-stopper produced an outstanding display and was named Man of the Match, as he added yet another piece of silverware to his growing trophy cabinet.
Chelsea’s historic triumph will live long in the memory of fans across the world, and the Blues will look to repeat their feat from the 2011-12 season when they face Real Madrid in the semifinals.