Drogba's dink leads Chelsea into promised land
Bayern Munich 1 Chelsea 1 (aet; Chelsea win 4-3 on penalties): Long-serving striker is man for the big occasion yet again with late match-saving goal before staying cool to put away the winning penalty in shoot-out
It was not exactly 1999 all over again but like Manchester United on that occasion, Chelsea were last night partying at the expense of a stunned Bayern Munich, who again felt they had one hand if not their colours on the European Cup. This time a penalty shoot-out was required and for once a German side lost one; blue was the colour after Didier Drogba, with what was almost certainly his last kick for the club, converted the winning kick to complete one of the most extraordinary of his 300-plus Chelsea games.
Thomas Müller had headed Bayern in front with eight minutes to play, prompting celebrations among what was essentially and unfairly a home crowd. Then Drogba carved out the most unexpected of equalisers to take the game to extra-time and beyond, conceding a penalty himself along the way that the heroic Petr Cech saved from his old team-mate Arjen Robben.
Roman Abramovich was among the crowd to see his billion-pound adventure reach the point he had always wanted, if not in the grand manner he had hoped for. He even got to hold up the trophy himself after Roberto di Matteo led his exhausted troops to the top of the main stand to receive their medals, knowing that for him, too, this may have been the last supper.
The trophy was first lifted by John Terry, one of four Chelsea players who had been foolishly suspended. As both sides were missing two first-choice defenders, some pundits had expected one of the more high-scoring finals. But Di Matteo's side defended stubbornly for most of the match, with Ashley Cole and Gary Cahill outstanding.
So Bayern were somehow denied a fifth European title in their ninth final, this one in their home city where only Norwich City, of 16 English visitors, had previously beaten them. The threat down both flanks posed by Robben and Franck Ribèry was just about kept at bay by some tenacious covering and doubling-up involving the wide midfield players Salomon Kalou and Ryan Bertrand.
The latter had the day of his 22-year-old life in collecting a Champions' League winner's medal in his first European game. In one of the tactical ploys that all seem to have gone his way, Di Matteo brought the young defender in to play in front of Cole, only sacrificing him late in the game for Florent Malouda.
Cahill and David Luiz, both of whom were passed fit to stand at the heart of the defence, had their hands full against the prolific Mario Gomez, and overall the traffic was as one-way as roads to the Allianz Arena earlier in the evening.
By half-time Chelsea were happy simply still to be in the contest, and on equal terms of a sort. Their carelessly suspended quartet of Terry – who had started the night a forlorn figure on the touchline and ended it in prancing jubilation – Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires and Raul Meireles had contributed one third of the team's 24 previous goals in the competition and playing a young full-back in midfield on his European debut was not designed to improve scoring power.
Robben often drifted across to the inside-left channel, from where he twice came close to finding a way through as pressure intensified midway through the half. In the 18th minute he struck a volley from Toni Kroos's corner that was deflected wide and shortly afterwards he hit a low shot that bounced off Cech's leg and on to a post.
By the interval the London side had produced two shots to Bayern's 13. The first did not materialise until the 33rd minute, when Juan Mata's free-kick sailed high over the crossbar, and the only one on target came three minutes before the break, Drogba and Frank Lampard setting up Kalou, who forced Manuel Neuer to work for the first time.
To be fair, Cech was not overworked, even if he was glad to see Müller's volley fly wide, then grateful to Luiz and Cole right at the start of the second half for solid blocks from Ribèry and Robben respectively. Soon he was beaten, but Ribèry was clearly offside as the ball broke to him from Cole's deflection of another Robben shot. Fortunately the smoke swirling around from the home supporters' flares did not obscure the assistant referee's view.
Attacking (theoretically) the end behind which their 17,000 followers were massed, Chelsea were struggling to test a Bayern defence pierced five times in last weekend's German Cup final by Borussia Dortmund and also missing two key players.
With eight minutes to play, matters seemed settled when Kroos crossed from the left and Müller was at the far post to head the ball down into the ground and off the underside of the bar past a despairing Cech.
Drogba, however, had come alive and with two minutes remaining he rose imperiously to head in Mata's corner, Neuer managing only to lay one hand on the ball. Early in extra-time Drogba seemed to have thrown his good work away by tripping Ribèry but Cech, having faced countless penalties from Robben in training, guessed right to block it.
The shoot-out was held at the Bayern end of the stadium and the Germans were ahead when Mata's kick was saved, before contriving to lose it. Cech saved from Ivica Olic, then Bastian Schweinsteiger missed, Drogba having the last, astounding word after successful kicks by Luiz, Lampard and Cole. London had a European Cup at last at the 28th attempt, with Chelsea now able to compete in the next one at the expense of Tottenham, who are harshly demoted to the Europa League.
Bayern Munich (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Lahm, Tymoshchuk, Boateng, Contento; Kroos, Schweinsteiger; Robben, Müller (Van Buyten, 86), Ribèry (Olic, 97); Gomez.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Bosingwa, Cahill, Luiz, Cole; Mikel, Lampard; Kalou (Torres, 83), Mata, Bertrand (Malouda, 73); Drogba.
Referee Pedro Proenca.
Man of the match Cole (Chelsea).
Match rating 7/10.
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