Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic has reportedly agreed to a move to Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg. The Serbian is set to call time on his Blues career after nine eventful and successful years with the club. There were several doubters when he arrived in January 2008. He didn’t make a single appearance for the club in the second half of the 2007-08 season, and was linked with a move away in the summer. Slowly and gradually though, things changed.
376 appearances, 34 goals and 9 trophies later, there is little doubt that Ivanovic will go down as a Chelsea legend. His form may have dipped dramatically in his final two years at Stamford Bridge, but he will forever be fondly remembered by the fans.
Ivanovic had the uncanny knack of popping up with some really important goals for Chelsea. Here are 5 that had the biggest implications for the club (in ascending order of importance):
1) vs Aston Villa, Premier League, 2014-15
Chelsea weren’t at their best in early February of 2015 when they visited Villa Park. The Blues needed 3 points to keep the pace at the top of the table. It was 1-1 heading into the last half an hour, and no obvious source of inspiration was apparent. In the end, it was Ivanovic who had the final say with a fantastic left-footed volley which nestled into Brad Guzan’s top corner. The Serbian had a really prolific scoring record against Villa, but this goal was by far the most important. It set Chelsea on their way to a series of narrow and unconvincing wins. Jose Mourinho’s men though, had already done the damage in the first half of the season, and went on to lift the title in May.
2) vs Liverpool, League Cup semi-final, 2014-15
Ivanovic will leave with several memories from his clashes with Liverpool. The bite from Luis Suarez won’t be the fondest, but there were quite a few others he will cherish. One such memory was from the League Cup semi-final at Stamford Bridge in early 2015. Following a 1-1 draw at Anfield, the game at Stamford Bridge was deadlocked as well as we entered extra-time. In the dying seconds of the first half, Ivanovic got the winner, to send Chelsea through to the final. The Blues would go on to lift the trophy in February.
3) vs Liverpool, Champions League quarter-final, 2008-09
Ivanovic’s first couple of goals for the club came under extremely unlikely and dramatic circumstances. Over a year after joining the club, the Serb headed in a Florent Malouda corner in the Champions League quarter-final first leg at Anfield to give Chelsea a precious away goal. If that was surprising, he was at it again from a Frank Lampard delivery in the second half. The Chelsea fans were ecstatic yet amused, as the then little-known Ivanovic sealed the club’s path to the semi-finals. Guus Hiddink’s men won that game 3-1, before a pulsating 4-4 at Stamford Bridge took through 7-5 on aggregate.
4) vs Benfica, Europa League final, 2012-13
The 2012-13 season was a funny old campaign for Chelsea. Their Champions League defence ended in elimination from the group stage. They entered the Europa League and in the final against Benfica, were tied 1-1. We were deep into injury time and looked set for an extra 30 minutes. Then, in the last piece of action in the match, Ivanovic rose highest to direct a looping header into the corner from a Juan Mata set piece. Chelsea had won a major European honour for the second consecutive season, and it was their Serbian defender who had the final say.
5) vs Napoli, Champions League round of 16, 2011-12
Chelsea won the Champions League for the first time in their history in 2012. There were some improbable hurdles they passed along the way, and one of the most thrilling ones was in the round of 16 against Napoli. Following a 3-1 defeat in the first leg in Italy, Chelsea forced extra time in the second leg thanks to goals from Didier Drogba, John Terry and Frank Lampard. In the dying seconds of the first half, a ball into the box from Drogba was thumped home by Ivanovic. This made it 4-1, and that’s how it stayed at the end. The defender had once again appeared at the right place at the right time to deliver the telling blow for Chelsea.