Chelsea’s FA Cup history is a long and rich one. The club ranks third on the all time winners list with eight, with an opportunity to move clear of Tottenham and up to nine trophy wins with victory over Leicester.
What makes this number even more impressive is that five of those have come in the past 15 years, with a grand total of eight finals in that time too. Ever since the club’s first FA Cup victory in 1970 the oldest and greatest tournament in football has been a part of the clubs fabric and it hasn’t gone away.
There are 14 finals to chose from when looking back at some of the most memorable, only Arsenal and Manchester United can reflect on more. Here, we’ll be focusing on 1970, 1997, 2007, 2009, 2012 and 2018 finals.
1970, Chelsea Vs Leeds United (That FA Cup final replay)
Back to the days of FA Cup final replays and one of Chelsea’s most famous ever victories and teams. Fielding a side which included Peter Bonetti, David Webb, Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris, Tommy Baldwin, Peter Houseman, Charlie Cooke and the king Peter Osgood, Chelsea defeat their historic rivals Leeds United.
It was the latest FA Cup game to be played in April with the rest in May, and it was drawn out. After a dramatic and fiercely contested 2-2 draw at Wembley, the two sides met once again eight days later at Old Trafford.
It was a true footballing battle, with Chelsea and Leeds United finishing second and third in the old First Division that season there were similarities in the history of the teams. Both teams were competing to win their first ever FA Cup and both sides had lost a final within the past three years of this encounter as well.
Unlike anything we would see in modern football, the pitch was a mud bowl, the Horse of the Year Show taking place on the pitch seven days earlier. This played into the atmosphere of a brutal game. Both sides with animosity clear to see.
Leeds United should have won their first FA Cup final there and then, taking a 2-1 lead through Mick Jones’ rebounded header. His goal put the Yorkshire side a goal up after Jack Charlton’s early goal had been cancelled out by Houseman. As Leeds looked set to claim the trophy, Ian Hutchinson headed the Blues level and into a replay. With no goals in the extra 30 minutes and a mud ruined pitch, more firey action was to come the week after in Manchester.
Remarkably, only Hutchinson was booked in this explosive affair. Reviewed in 1997 it is thought that six red cards and 20 yellow cards could have been dished out. In the spirit of this match, Bonetti conceded first whilst limping after he was pushed into his own goal moments earlier, elsewhere there was a punching match between Hutchinson and Eddie McCreadie.
The Blues then left it late to make their comeback. Osgood’s famous low diving header equalising 12-minutes from time, Charlton missing in his own area after he went looking for physical revenge on Hutchinson. This goal sent the tie to extra time once again, Osgood becoming the last player to have scored in every round of the competition.
Webb scored the eventual winner in the 104th minute, tapping in Hutchinson’s long throw at the far post, securing the cup for Chelsea. An iconic, legendary and true battle.
1997, Chelsea Vs Middlesbrough (That FA Cup final early goal)
Not many finals have the same history as the 1970 FA Cup ‘war’ between Chelsea and Leeds United. Football doesn’t come like that anymore.
After winning the 1970 final, the clubs second ever attempt coming 65 years after being founded, Chelsea were made to wait another 24 years for an FA Cup final. Their 4-0 humiliation at the hands of Sir Alex Ferguson’s dominant Manchester United side proving the catalyst for the FA Cup siege that would come in the following decades.
The 1997 final is most famously remembered for Roberto Di Matteo’s 42nd minute opener, picking up the ball inside his own half, travelling beyond the centre circle and unleashing a dipping shot that crashed off the underside of the crossbar and in.
The record for the quickest ever FA Cup final goal was only broken in 2009 by Louis Saha when the Frenchman gave Everton the lead against Chelsea after only 25 seconds.
The Italian’s goal set Chelsea on their way to a comfortable victory in a disappointing game. Chelsea did double their lead seven minutes from time, Eddie Newton scoring the second.
Notably, the two Chelsea goalscorers were the duo which lead the team to a first ever Champions League victory in 2012. Elsewhere in that starting team was Mark Hughes who lifted his fourth FA Cup trophy after winning three in his time at Manchester United.
This wasn’t the best final to watch, but will be forever memorable for Di Matteo’s long distance strike.
2007, Chelsea Vs Manchester United (That FA Cup final at the new Wembley)
Perhaps another largely forgettable game, the 2007 FA Cup final marked the first game at the new Wembley. Seven years after the final FA Cup match at the old Wembley in which Chelsea also won, defeating Aston Villa 1-0, the Blues were back.
After winning back-to-back Premier League titles under Jose Mourinho, Chelsea were up against the team that stole their crown that season, Manchester United. A heavyweight clash for the ages, but not a game to live up to the hype.
It was Didier Drogba who scored the only goal of the game four minutes from full time in extra time, the Ivorian also scored both goals just months earlier in the League Cup final held at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Drogba had already started to develop his habit of scoring in finals, here he was running on empty as his latched on to Frank Lampard’s pass and deftly touched the ball over the onrushing Edwin Van De Saar.
Chelsea fans were the first to see their team lift the FA Cup at the new Wembley, they were also the last to see it lifted at the old Wembley. It became the tradition from here on that Chelsea would get to the FA Cup final, usually win it and Drogba would almost undoubtedly score.
2009, Chelsea Vs Everton (That FA Cup final with the even earlier goal)
From a perhaps underwhelming FA Cup final to a bit of a blockbuster. Chelsea’s trip to Wembley was their second in two years and they were looking avenge a League Cup final loss to Spurs the year before.
This time they faced Everton and David Moyes. After the Louis Saha opener inside 30 seconds, Chelsea’s response was stellar. It was the one of a team that were full of world class players which included John Terry, Frank Lampard, Michael Essien, Florent Malouda and Nicholas Anelka.
It was the core of the Chelsea old guard that led that generation of players and two of them came up in that final. Drogba’s arrowing header equalised for Chelsea in the first half, claiming the standard Drogba final goal at Wembley, it was customary after all.
It was then Lampard who scored the winner, turning and striking on his weaker left foot, slipping in the process and seeing his long range strike squeeze between the despairing Tim Howard, who might have done better in the Everton net.
Lampard’s celebration in Chelsea’s iconic yellow away strip was to run and dance around the corner flag like Frank Lampard senior had done for West Ham. A beautiful way to win another FA Cup for Chelsea.
2012, Chelsea Vs Liverpool (That FA Cup final with the goal that never was)
Chelsea may have then won the 2010 FA Cup final, worth a mention for it’s place in the Carlo Ancellotti double winning campaign in his first season at Stamford Bridge. The final itself wasn’t particularly memorable and despite it’s place as the second trophy in a historic double, doesn’t make the list. Though it is again worth remembering the winning goal; a typically powerful Drogba, of course, free-kick.
The 2012 cup final was part of another double winning season. Di Matteo’s interim spell was rewarded with victory in this final before going on to win the crowning jewel of Chelsea’s history in Munich later that season.
One again Drogba scored at Wembley, but only after Ramires broke free of the Liverpool defence managed by Kenny Dalglish. The Brazilians low strike enough to beat Pepe Reina who went down too early and could only get a weak hand on the shot.
The two Chelsea icons then linked up in an FA Cup final again. Lampard threading a ball into the feet of Drogba who evaded Martin Skrtel and finished coolly on his left foot into the far corner. The proceeding celebration in front of the Chelsea fans at Wembley, a mark of the history that the great striker was leaving on the national stadium.
Liverpool did hit back though, halving the deficit with a strong Andy Carroll left footed shot high into the near post and past Petr Cech. Those two would be at the forefront of the main talking point from this final later though.
Luis Suarez’s calculated cross found Carroll again at the far post, this time his header was brilliantly stopped by Cech with one of the all-time great FA Cup saves. As Liverpool ran away in celebration the referee never whistled and the goal wasn’t given, replays showing that the ball was extremely close to crossing the line, we’ll let you be the judge on if it went in or not.
2018, Chelsea Vs Manchester United (That FA Cup final made for the Belgian)
As it happens, this is so far the last FA Cup victory for Chelsea. Under the stewardship of Antonio Conte, his team reached back-to-back FA Cup finals, losing the first to Arsenal in a controversial but ultimately disappointing end to the largely jubilant 2016/17 campaign the year before. Here, Conte’s Blues were rewarded for their hard work in the cup, lifting the famous trophy after upending and largely dominating Manchester United.
This was the perfect way for Conte to bow out, after a memorable two years at Chelsea, the Italian’s firey spell in charge came to end after this game. It looked that way from the post-match celebrations but nonetheless it was a great scene. Conte’s long black hair dripping with champagne.
As for the game itself, Eden Hazard’s only FA Cup triumph as a Chelsea player was here. It was fitting in that sense that he scored the only goal of the game. The Belgian dispatching the penalty in typically nerveless Hazard fashion, rolling it past David De Gea who slumped the other way in disgust.
Again, this may not have been the cracker of a match that has been seen before but being the clubs last victory and Hazard’s only one, it is needed in the list.
2021? (Thomas Tuchel’s final?)
Well, here we are. Back to this weekend’s action.
It’s the Foxes against the Blues in front of a not so packed Wembley crowd. As Chelsea look to overturn not only a top four place at Leicester City’s expense, they could also ruin a chance for Brendan Rodgers men to win a first ever FA Cup of their own.
Chelsea have no need to be desperate when it comes to history, they have won seven of the ten finals reached and don’t have to worry about losing to Arsenal. The side that have defeated them twice in the past four years during a period which has seen the Blues compete in three of the last four finals.
This is Thomas Tuchel’s first chance for silverware and a chance for his team to win their own double, less than five months after the German’s appointment.
With some fans back in the ground there will be an extra incentive to reward those that are lucky enough to watch a first spectated game of the year. Elsewhere, there are plenty of faces in the Chelsea squad that now know how it feels to lose an FA Cup final after their hotly contested defeat to Arsenal in an empty Wembley stadium last year.
That’s all behind us though and it’s time for Chelsea’s current crop to make their own history.
Written and edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)