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Chelsea vs Arsenal: Remembering Essien’s cracking goal

11:26 EAT 20/04/2022
Essien - Chelsea vs Arsenal 2006-07
With the two London rivals set to face off at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, GOAL recollects one of the iconic strikes in this fixture

Chelsea against Arsenal hitherto the mid-2000s was largely one-sided, with the Gunners dominating the London derby both home and away.

This changed after Roman Abramovich bought the West London club and particularly after Jose Mourinho arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2004.

The Portuguese manager turned the tide of what was a rather one-sided rivalry between the clubs, notably claiming a 1-0 win over the Gunners at the start of the 2005/06 season. This was consequential as it was the Blues’ first home success over the North London giants in a decade.

In the 15 meetings at the Bridge since, Arsenal have picked up only three victories, with Chelsea claiming nine wins on their turf.

Be that as it may, Blues supporters will feel that number should be double figures, owing to a 1-1 draw in December 2006 that, frankly, should have gone the West Londoners’ way.

That meeting in West London did not go according to the flow of previous and subsequent encounters between the clubs with the home side dominating for large periods, fashioning the better openings but let down by their profligate finishing.

Games between the clubs in the ensuing meetings went that way, only that it was the reverse with Chelsea often getting the better of their London rivals having been dominated territorially.

Their first meeting in 2006/07 saw Mourinho's side out-shoot Wenger's men 26-13 and edge the possession 53-47 percent.

Perhaps knowing his side needed to win to avoid falling eight points behind runaway leaders Manchester United, Mourinho’s Blues played on the front foot for the majority of the clash and ought to have netted a first-half goal.

Their best chance before the interlude fell to Michael Essien, who somehow contrived to toe-poke an effort from 12 yards high and wide after a loose ball fell to him. Admittedly, there was pressure from Gilberto Silva which probably put him off.

The Ghanaian, though, was going to save the day for the hosts and preserve what, before kick-off, was a 51-game unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge.

Deep into the game, against the run of play, Mathieu Flamini sent Arsenal into a 1-0 lead with 12 minutes left on the clock, sending the away supporters into a frenzy. Arsene Wenger’s side were seemingly set for a victory at the home of the enemy.

The Frenchman was set for yet another success in West London…or so he thought.

Essien had other ideas and then some.

Just six minutes after Flamini opened the scoring, the ‘Bison’ pegged the visitors back with a memorable strike.

Chelsea poured forward quickly with the vilified Ashley Cole - who faced his old side for the first time since departing months earlier - passing to Frank Lampard who found Arjen Robben wide on the left.

The Dutchman strangely ignored Cole who was already sprinting into the Arsenal box, while he resisted the urge to send a cross into the area for the anticipating Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba.

Rather, the wide attacker played a sideways pass to Lampard who found himself in some space between the lines. What followed was truly remarkable and has to go down as one of the Premier League’s greatest long-range efforts.

The Englishman opted against finding half a yard to shoot at goal from 20 yards, instead teeing up Essien perhaps in the expectation that the dynamic midfield man would pick out Shawn Wright-Phillips on the right flank.

However, the ex-Olympique Lyon man had other ideas. Essien ignored the obvious pass and took the initiative, smashing a 35-yard thunderbolt that curved inwards, far from Jens Lehmann’s reach and into the left corner.

It undoubtedly raised the roof inside Stamford Bridge with about five minutes of normal time to play.

While the players and fans rejoiced, Drogba, knowing full well the game was still winnable, hurried his teammates back to the centre circle for a quick restart.

That winning goal never came, although it was not for the want of trying.

Essien missed a huge opportunity to be the match-winner, somehow contriving to hit the bar from two yards out after Ballack flicked a Lampard corner into his midfield partner, but the Ghana superstar finished badly.

In the game’s closing stages, Lampard hit the post after Lehmann made a hash of Robben’s poorly hit strike and it ended 1-1.

While Essien missed two of the game’s biggest openings, the powerful midfielder netted a cracker that years later remains enjoyable to watch with every viewing.

The midfield man scored a left-footed volley in the Champions League semi-final defeat by Barcelona years later, demonstrating his enduring technique even when his physical attributes had waned.

That outstanding effort against Arsenal, though, remains his best in a Chelsea shirt. The fact it came against their fierce rivals made it all the more pleasing and memorable.