Bayern 1-1 Chelsea - Drogba the hero as Chelsea triumph in Champions League shootout
Bayern Munich 1
Chelsea win 5-3 on penalties
Didier Drogba was once again the final hero as Chelsea finally claimed their Holy Grail, the Champions League, the prize that Roman Abramovich has spent so many roubles chasing over the last nine years. An equaliser two minutes from time and the winning strike in the penalty shootout - with what was possibly his last kick in a Chelsea shirt - will see the Ivorian’s name forever etched into the history of the club.
Having been out-played time and again in this competition, against Valencia, Benfica, Napoli and Barcelona, Roberto Di Matteo’s team dug deep and found the mental strength to do it all again when it mattered most. For 88 minutes they were also-rans and then, 1-0 down, they won their first corner of the match. Drogba rose imperiously to direct a monstrously powerful header past Manuel Neuer who got a hand to it but couldn’t keep it out.
The dreams of the Bayern players and fans of lifting the trophy for the first time since 2002 will have been rudely pushed aside by memories of Barcelona, Manchester United and 1999. However with Chelsea in the ascendancy they hung on to take the game into extra time.
Drogba having been the hero once went perilously close to being a zero, fouling Frank Ribery and conceding a penalty. Former Chelsea player Arjen Robben stepped up to the spot but Cech was able to match his low, hard drive was saved. It was the 12th penalty the Londoners have conceded this season, only five have been scored. An omen?
The first 83 minutes of the game didn’t live up to the billing. It was a one-side affair with Chelsea holding out against wave after wave of Bayern attack. The Germans will want to forget their missed chances but will no doubt relive them time and again. They should have been out of sight by then. In fact they should have been out of sight by half-time.
In the first half they had 60 per cent possession, 13 shots on target (to Chelsea’s two) and eight corners (to Chelsea’s none) and yet at the scores were level. Robben came closest testing Cech with a shot across goal which the Blues keeper deflected on to the post with his out-stretched right foot.
However, it was Mario Gomez who was most profligate. The striker, with 41 goals to his name this season, had four clear chances - a header and three shots - but he fluffed them all. The best chance came minutes before the break when Gomez wrong-footed Gary Cahill but, having done the hard work, blasted over. Goalless at the break, Chelsea were the happier having soaked up the pressure and ridden their luck.
With seven minutes left Thomas Mueller, who had momentarily lost Ashley Cole, headed past Petr Cech, and it appeared Bayern had secured a historic victory in front of their home fans. So dominant had they been, so one-sided was the game until that point and so little time was left, there seemed no way back for Chelsea. However this side, with the renewed vigour they have discovered under Di Matteo simply don’t know when they are beaten. Penalties came after extra time and despite Juan Mata missing, fate was on the side of the Premier League club.
Now what of Di Matteo? Will the same fate befall him that his counterpart Jupp Heynckes suffered in 1998? Heynckes was sacked eight days after winning the Champions League with Real Madrid. That’s for the future. Foe now the man let go by West Brom last season can celebrate lifting the greatest prize in club football.
Bayern Munich (4-2-3-1) Neuer; Lahm, Boateng, Tymoschuk, Contento; Schweinsteiger, Kroos; Robben, Mueller (Van Buyten 86), Ribery (Olic 96); Gomez.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Cech; Bosingwa, Luiz, Cahill, Cole; Mikel, Lampard; Kalou (Torres 84), Mata, Bertrand (Malouda 72); Drogba.
Check out the Euro 2012 odds and get some tips on the European Championships betting.