“It was a completely different match. Football with spectators and without spectators, you can’t compare. It was amazing and I said to your colleagues it’s exactly what we want. We want everybody happy that comes to the stadium and feels the energy from the team. This is what this team can deliver.”
The words of Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel after 8000 Chelsea fans returned to Stamford Bridge for the first time since a teasing night in December when only an eighth of that was allowed in to watch the Blues beat Leeds United.
A lot has changed since then. Chelsea had plunged from top of the table down to ninth under Frank Lampard’s watch which eventually led to him getting the boot in west London to be replaced by Tuchel.
Five months later and Chelsea are sitting third in the Premier League and have a Champions League final to look forward to. The disappointment of the FA Cup final will annoy for a little while longer, but success in Porto next month will help get over that pretty sharpish.
It is nine years to the day that Chelsea fans celebrated their greatest ever triumph with that win in Munich over Bayern, Didier Drogba’s late header to take the match to extra time and then his decisive penalty in the shootout sealing the Blues’ greatest ever triumph.
Chelsea will aim to repeat the trick in Porto next month when there will be Blues fans in attendance in Portugal to take on Man City, who will also have their own supporters in attendance.
The difference between having 8000 fans inside the stadium compared to the sterile behind-closed-doors football which has been a part of our lives for the last 12 months couldn’t be more extreme.
Tuchel and his players fed off the energy in what was a huge game for the race for the top four. While Leicester’s win over the Blues at Wembley brought a trophy, arguably a more lucrative prize was at stake on Tuesday night and it was the Blues who came out on top 2-1.
The home side were electric in the first half, Timo Werner having two goals ruled out and Chelsea battering Brendan Rodgers’ side but it was 0-0 at half time.
Two minutes after the players re-emerged, Antonio Rudiger bundled home to give the hosts the lead. It was doubled 19 minutes later when Jorginho stroked home a penalty before Kelechi Iheancho’s reply ensured a nervy ending.
Don’t think 8000 fans can’t make a racket, especially for supporters who have been starved of going to watch their team in action for more than a year. The chanting from all four corners of the ground was relentless, up until Iheanacho’s goal when it got a bit quiet afterwards and nerves set in.
Tino Werner’s name was chanted throughout, so was Thiago Silva’s. “Super Frankie Lampard” rung out regularly.
Seeing the street vendors selling their half and half scarves, badges and flags with “European Final 2021” on the Fulham Road, fans mingling with fellow supporters they might not have seen for more than a year, even the return of the absurdly loud music to keep those in the ground entertained pre-match, it felt like a sense of normality had resumed.
Of course, we all know it isn’t quite normal and perhaps won’t be for some time as the globe is still ravaged by the pandemic, but this was a start. The pre-match Covid-19 declaration forms, face masks, social distancing and hand sanitising could be around for a while yet.
Yet, for Chelsea’s final home game of the season in a campaign that has been more challenging and arduous than most, it was a welcome relief.
Source by Football London