Heartbroken by their 2008 final defeat by Manchester United FC and on the brink against FC Bayern München on Saturday, Chelsea FC's maiden UEFA Champions League triumph was secured the hard way.
The last kick of the game won them this thunderous match, the wonderful trophy that they covet so much and repaired the damage of their Moscow defeat at this stage four years ago. But was it really, ever, going to have a different script than this? Throughout the knockout stages of this season's competition, the Blues have consistently waited until time is ebbing away to produce something remarkable.
Behind to Bayern late on before Didier Drogba's equaliser, facing an Arjen Robben penalty in extra time and again trailing in the shoot-out, Chelsea once again showed their astonishing ability to cling on. Against SSC Napoli, SL Benfica, FC Barcelona and now again in Munich, it was possible to hear the ominous tick, tick, tick of a clock, a sound which merely seems to galvanise Roberto Di Matteo's players.
The second leg of their round of 16 tie against Napoli signalled the beginning of a startling change in performance, attitude and achievement, but the key moment came just as the half-time break in extra time was beckoning. One moment it was all square, the next Drogba set up Branislav Ivanović for 4-1 on the night, victory overall and a catalyst to becoming champions of Europe.
It was the first sign that Chelsea have become ruthless predators who naturally ratchet up their performance when time is running out. In the quarter-finals Benfica were making light of being down to ten men and scored a late goal which left them needing just one more to eliminate the Blues. The Premier League side were not to be denied, though, and Raul Meireless rubber-stamped the win in extra time.
The ultimate preparation for the astonishing events in the Munich final, though, came against Barcelona. In the first leg at Stamford Bridge the reigning champions were mere seconds from navigating the first half, finding sanctuary in the dressing room and assessing how to break down Chelsea. Suddenly Drogba produced what proved to be the winning strike.
A week later at the Camp Nou it was again first-half added time when Ramires scored his audacious goal to pull Chelsea back from the precipice – 2-1 adrift on aggregate and down to ten men following John Terry's dismissal. Just for good measure, Fernando Torres iced the cake when the regulation 90 minutes had already elapsed.
The showpiece was the Blues' coup de grace, however. Drogba produced a phenomenal 88th-minute header to level the scores, but it was not until his penalty nestled into the net that Chelsea had finally proved that it really is better late than never.
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