Michael Essien’s finest games

- Rahman Osman

Lyon 4 Fenerbahce 2

November 3, 2004 Champions League group stage

“Nothing got past me that night. I felt like I was so fit, I could take on any player in the world right then. Before we could get going, though, Fenerbahce took the lead and silenced our fans. Not long afterwards, I got upfield and connected with a cross that bounced in – I call it the Essien volley! It brought us level and got us going. Florent Malouda put us ahead before they equalised again, but then Nilmar scored twice in injury time. After, it felt like the whole city of Lyon couldn’t stop talking about me. I felt the love of what it was like being a profession­al footballer playing in the Champions League against big- time players.”

Chelsea 1 Arsenal 1

December 10, 2006 Premier League

“Jose Mourinho still thinks this is the best goal I’ve ever scored. We were slipping to a rare defeat after Mathieu Flamini had scored from nowhere, and had tried everything – the ball just wouldn’t go in. It was desperate stuff and our invincible home record [ going back to February 2004] was on the line, so a defeat would have been damaging to our confidence and pride. Frank Lampard tried and it wasn’t working; Didier Drogba tried too… the same. It was a London derby like no other. So when the ball came to me on the edge of the box, there was just one thing on my mind: to hit it as hard as I could. It flew in! I won [ the club’s] goal of the season, but the pride that moment gave me can never be topped – that skill and timing.”

Ghana 2 Nigeria 1

February 3, 2008 AFCON quarter- finals

“This match brought me the love of Ghanaians. We were hosting the tournament and had to face our eternal rivals, who took the lead. All our supporters were getting agitated, but midway through the first half I climbed highest to head home the equaliser, before Junior Agogo scored the winner. That match was pure magic – beating Nigeria was always special. I never lost against them during my career, so that’s something special for me to hold on to now. Maybe one day I can use it for a team talk!”

Chelsea 1 Barcelona 1

May 6, 2009 Champions League semi- finals

“I wouldn’t necessaril­y say this goal changed my life, but I think it was one that will be remembered by a lot of Chelsea and Barça fans thanks to both the brilliance and pain of that night. The technique and power I managed in hitting the ball was just about the perfect combinatio­n. Before the game, John Obi Mikel said he had a feeling I was going to boss it, so you can see after the goal that I run straight to him and whisper in his ear that he got it right. [ Laughs]

That last- minute equaliser from Andres Iniesta still hurts as much today as it did that night. I must say that if we’d knocked out Barcelona, I’m not sure any other team would have been able to stop us.”

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