Chelsea FC claimed the European title for the first time in dramatic circumstances, somehow holding off FC Bayern München in the German side's own stadium to prevail on penalties.
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FC Bayern München 1-1 Chelsea FC (aet, Chelsea win 4-3 on penalties)
(Müller 83; Drogba 88)
Fußball Arena München
The 2011/12 UEFA Champions League ended with a new name on the trophy for the first time in 15 years, Chelsea FC ending FC Bayern München's hopes of becoming the first team to win the competition in their home stadium with a dramatic victory in Munich.
The Blues looked to be heading out of the competition when they went down 3-1 at SSC Napoli in the round of 16 first leg, but by the time of the return Roberto Di Matteo had replaced André Villas-Boas as manager and Branislav Ivanović's extra-time goal earned a 4-1 victory and completed a rousing comeback.
From then on, there was no stopping Chelsea. SL Benfica were defeated away (1-0) and home (2-1) in the quarter-finals, before Didier Drogba's goal earned a 1-0 home win against holders FC Barcelona in the semi-final first leg. Once more Chelsea looked to be heading out when Sergio Busquets and Andrés Iniesta turned the tie around either side of John Terry's 37th-minute red card at the Camp Nou, but instead Ramires pulled one back on the stroke of half-time and, after withstanding Barça's onslaught, Fernando Torres raced through in the last seconds to seal the Blues' final place.
Chelsea's final opponents Bayern had been driven by the desire to claim their fifth European Cup at the Fußball Arena München, comfortable knockout wins against FC Basel 1893 (7-1 on aggregate) and Olympique de Marseille (4-0) preceding a thrilling 3-3 draw over two legs against Real Madrid CF. That set up a penalty shoot-out when Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was the pivotal figure, saving from Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaká, and when Sergio Ramos blazed Madrid's fourth kick over the crossbar, it left Bastian Schweinsteiger to send his side into the final.
There would be a very different outcome for Bayern and Schweinsteiger in their "home" showpiece though, despite Thomas Müller heading them into an 83rd-minute lead. Just as Munich was preparing to celebrate, Didier Drogba brought Chelsea level to take the decider into extra time, though it looked as if Bayern would regain the lead when Drogba tripped Franck Ribéry in the area. Petr Čech blocked former Chelsea winger Arjen Robben's spot kick, however, and the Czech goalkeeper was the hero again in the shoot-out, saving from Ivica Olić and Schweinsteiger after Juan Mata had missed Chelsea's first kick. That left Drogba the chance to take the trophy to Stamford Bridge for the first time, and the Ivorian striker made no mistake it what would prove to be his last kick for the club.
Elsewhere the eye was caught by APOEL FC's remarkable run from the second qualifying round to the quarter-finals while the top two clubs in England at the season's end, Manchester City FC and Manchester United FC, failed to survive the group stage, United being eliminated by Basel. Valencia CF, AFC Ajax, Borussia Dortmund, FC Shakhtar Donetsk and UEFA Europa League holders FC Porto were among the other big names to miss out on the knockout rounds.
For the fourth year running Lionel Messi took the scoring honours, establishing a new UEFA Champions League record with 14 goals – equalling the European Cup high set by AC Milan's José Altafini in 1962/63 – including five in the round of 16 second leg against Bayer 04 Leverkusen, also a new landmark.