Shoot-out win ends Chelsea's long wait for glory
Saturday, May 19, 2012
FC Bayern München 1-1 Chelsea FC (aet, Chelsea win 4-3 on penalties)
Chelsea finally claimed their first UEFA Champions League title, Didier Drogba converting the decisive spot kick to deny Bayern a home victory.
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Chelsea FC's long quest to win the UEFA Champions League finally reached a successful conclusion as a penalty shoot-out triumph ended FC Bayern München's hopes of becoming the first team to win the competition in their own stadium.
Bayern largely held the upper hand throughout yet were unable to capitalise until Thomas Müller headed in with seven minutes remaining, and it looked like the trophy was heading to Munich for a fifth time. Chelsea and Didier Drogba had other ideas, the Ivorian levelling in the 88th minute with a powerful header, and when Petr Čech kept out Arjen Robben's penalty after Drogba had fouled Franck Ribéry early in extra time, their hopes rose even higher.
With neither side able to find a winner it took spot kicks to decide the contest, a prospect both sides were all too familiar with; Bayern's last triumph came in a 2001 shoot-out while Chelsea lost by the same method four years ago.
The German club had also beaten Real Madrid CF on penalties in the semi-finals, and when Manuel Neuer saved Juan Mata's first kick, they had the initiative again. Philipp Lahm, Mario Gomez, David Luiz, Neuer himself and Frank Lampard all converted before Čech saved from Ivica Olić. Ashley Cole restored parity and Čech then touched Bastian Schweinsteiger's effort on to a post, leaving Drogba to slot in the final kick to spark unconfined Chelsea joy.
Much had been made of Bayern's familiarity with the surroundings and their fans attempted to make the atmosphere like a home game, unveiling a banner reading 'Unsere Stadt, Unser Stadion, Unser Pokal' – our city, our stadium, our cup – as the teams emerged. Their favourites started brightly as Chelsea's reshuffled rearguard came under intense scrutiny.
Roberto Di Matteo had opted to give 22-year-old Ryan Bertrand a UEFA Champions League debut in an unfamiliar role on the left of midfield in a bid to hold Robben in check, but Bayern's threat was relentless. In the 18th minute Müller's clever flick found Gomez in space but, with the goal at his mercy, the competition's second top scorer this season missed his kick.
Minutes later Robben switched flanks but the danger he posed remained unchanged, the Dutch international wriggling away from two defenders inside the penalty area. A low shot struck Čech's right shin and only the right-hand post kept the scoresheet blank.
Bayern had won all seven of their home European matches this season, scoring 21 goals, yet chances continued to come and go. Müller volleyed Diego Contento's left-wing cross wide when unmarked, before Gomez wrong-footed Gary Cahill only to shoot into the crowd with just Čech to beat.
The German side had managed 11 shots to Chelsea's two in the first period, although with nine missing the target it was clear where improvement was needed. Robben had an effort blocked by Cole, Ribéry's joy at tapping in the rebound cut short by an offside flag.
Bayern's corner count was mounting steadily although Jupp Heynckes' side were struggling to penetrate Chelsea's deep-lying defence. It took a fortunate rebound off Ribéry to give Müller another opportunity; again the shot was wayward.
Seven minutes from time, Bayern's No25 made no mistake, creeping in at the back post to meet Toni Kroos' left-wing cross with a firm header that bounced up and in off the underside of the crossbar. The home fans were preparing to party – five minutes later the songs died on their lips as Drogba's emphatic near-post header from Mata's right-wing corner proved too powerful for Neuer to keep out.
Once more celebrations proved short-lived as Drogba clipped Ribéry's right foot three minutes into extra time but again Chelsea survived, Čech diving to his left to block Robben's driven penalty. The omens looked to be with Chelsea, and so it proved.