Six minutes remained, and Stamford Bridge watched on in suspense as Jose Mourinho’s side were one poor result away from finding themselves all but out for the Premier League title race.
Visitors Arsenal had taken the lead with a mere twelve minutes remaining in what was a frantic and heated first game, fuelled by Ashley Cole’s inaugural reunion with his ex-club following his controversial departure during the summer.
The left-back himself had picked up an earlier booking, the heat clearly having gone to his head. As had Didier Drogba and Jens Lehmann, whose run-in in the first half and their subsequent amateur dramatics saw referee Alan Wiley reach for his pocket in displeasure.
A loss against the Gunners would leave the Blues ten points adrift of league leaders Manchester United before the turn of the year, a position that the club, nor Mourinho could afford to find themselves in. A goal had to come from somewhere.
Often in those moments of desperation, a special moment is needed. And if the onlookers put their hands together and pray hard enough as they so often do, the football gods deliver.
Lampard strolled across the front of the United box, options in front of him but a sea of Red shirts blocking his way. Raising his head, he spots a lonely figure to his right, screaming for the ball. The Englishman lays it off, the look and briefly looks away, not expecting what was to follow.
The oncoming Michael Essien – or the Bison as he was so affectionately known at the Bridge – ran onto the ball and drilled it with the outside of his right boot, much to the disbelief of Lampard who found himself jumping out of the way.
“Essien!”, screamed Martin Tyler, as the ball flew of the Ghanian’s foot, and beautifully nestled into the inside of the net beyond the hopeless Lehmann between the sticks. The Bridge erupts, the Bison had come to the rescue again.
It was a thing of beauty. A rocket that was caressed so wonderfully by the midfielder, the ball appeared to be in flight for eternity, but equally had the net rippling in a flash.
Voted Chelsea’s goal of the season for 06/07, by Chelsea’s player of the year, the strike serves as fitting memory to one of the Blues greatest midfielders of this generation.