Kicking Things Off – Chelsea’s Earliest League Starts
From the official Chelsea FC website:
Chelsea will set a new club mark this weekend when we take on Everton in our earliest ever start to a new league campaign.
With a six-week break slated for November and December when the World Cup takes place in Qatar, the Premier League season gets underway a bit earlier this year with the opening round of games taking place in the first weekend of August.
It means that Chelsea’s visit to Goodison Park for the tea-time kick-off on 6 August will come a day earlier than our current earliest league start and will become just the fifth league game played by the Blues in the first 10 days of August.
7 August 1999 – Sunderland
Since its inception in1992, the Premier League season has usually kicked off in the second or third weekend of August. However, with the Champions League expanding to two group stages in 1999/2000 and the European Championship coming up the following summer, there appeared to be an impetus to kick things off a bit earlier in the final year of the last millennium.
So on a glorious Saturday afternoon on 7 August 1999, the Blues began the new campaign by serving up a scintillating display at Stamford Bridge against a Sunderland side which had won promotion from the First Division with a record haul of 105 points the previous season.
The step up in quality proved to be too much for the Black Cats as a goal each by Gianfranco Zola and Tore Andre Flo and a brace by future Sunderland manager Gustavo Poyet including a memorable scissor kick volley sealed a comprehensive 4-0 victory.
8 August 2015 – Swansea City
Sixteen years later, we kicked off our campaign a day later on 8 August riding a wave of optimism after leading from start to finish in our Premier League-winning campaign the previous season.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan for the champions in our home opener against Swansea. Despite taking a 2-1 lead at half-time through an Oscar free-kick and a deflected Willian effort, the Blues failed to sparkle and were pegged back after the interval when Thibaut Courtois was sent off for a foul on Bafetimbi Gomis who converted the resulting penalty.
Chelsea’s 10 men held on for a point but it was an early sign of the struggles we would endure as the Bridge that season as we managed only five home wins and finished in 10th place.
9 August 1998 – Coventry City
At the start of the 1997/98 season, Chelsea were looking to build on the FA Cup triumph which had ended a 26-year wait for a major honour. However, a disappointing result at one of our least favourite away grounds showed we still had work to do to become genuine league contenders.
We only won once in nine Premier League visits to Highfield Road and while we twice took the lead that day with Frank Sinclair netting a fine solo effort and Tore Andre Flo heading home on his debut, a hat-trick by Dion Dublin including two in the final seven minutes secured a 3-2 win for Coventry.
9 August 1969 – Liverpool
With England looking to defend the World Cup in Mexico the following summer, the football season kicked off much earlier than usual in 1969 and it seemed to catch out Chelsea as Dave Sexton’s side made a poor start to the new campaign.
The Blues had not won a league game at Anfield since 1935 and it turned out to be another chastening afternoon as a brace by Ian St John helped the Reds to a 4-1 victory with Ian Hutchinson getting our only goal.
We picked up only one win in our first nine league games but our form picked up as the season progressed as we finished third in the league and lifted the FA Cup for the first time.
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