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"One of the greatest days of my life" was Frank Lampard's description of the UEFA Champions League final after he captained Chelsea FC to their first European crown by way of a penalty shoot-out victory against FC Bayern München.
The English international slammed in the third of four successful spot kicks for the Blues, who had dramatically cancelled out Thomas Müller's late opener for Bayern through Didier Drogba's 88th-minute header to force the final into extra time. Petr Čech then repelled an Arjen Robben penalty in the first additional period before denying both Ivica Olić and Bastian Schweinsteiger in the shoot-out as the Blues' long search for glory in the competition finally came to a close.
"I'm pleased we haven't won it before because it feels even more special," Lampard said. "
It took so long. I've been here for 11 years so I've been waiting for this baby for a long time. To do it the way we did, and considering the season we've had, it's amazing."
Bayern, playing at their home stadium, had dominated for lengthy periods but failed to make good on their threat until Müller's header seven minutes from the end. Chelsea, having struggled as an attacking force throughout, roused themselves to snatch an equaliser and Lampard felt any fortune his team had enjoyed they had earned the hard way.
"If anyone says we've been lucky tonight, maybe we've made our own luck," said the 33-year-old. "There have been other times when we've deserved more than we got. We didn't play beautiful football but we played with spirit and no one can undermine that. It's absolutely amazing and this club deserves it."
Gary Cahill, who partnered David Luiz in the absence of regular centre-back and skipper John Terry, called the success "the highlight of my career so far". The former Bolton Wanderers FC defender conceded Bayern had been the better side but praised his team's character, as well as goalscorer Drogba who also converted Chelsea's final penalty to spark wild celebrations among the travelling fans.
"Bayern put us under a lot of pressure in the first half," said the 26-year-old. "It seemed like wave after wave but, when we've needed to dig deep in this competition, we've done so. We were dead and buried, apparently, against Napoli [in the last 16] and again against Barcelona [in the semis], but we just kept bouncing back and did so again today. Bayern probably feel hard done by as they played some great football, but the big man has come up for us in the big games, the big occasions, and dug us out of a hole again tonight."
Goalkeeper Čech also paid tribute to the Ivorian, adding: "Didier scored a fantastic goal at a point when nobody believed we were going to get back into the game." Not least the Bayern fans, who, though deflated by the leveller, must have been confident heading into penalties having beaten Real Madrid CF in a shoot-out in the semi-finals.
Čech had other ideas, however. "
I was really confident of saving at least one. I went the right way for the first three, then I got one and thought: 'Why not another?' Then I saw Didier step up for the fifth one and thought: 'This was the moment that should have happened [in the 2008 final] in Moscow'. When he scored, for the first time in my life I didn't know what to do. I heard him crying. I was crying, shouting. It was unbelievable."
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