After one of the most exciting finishes to the English Premiere League last weekend, and simply nail-biting finishes to the Champion’s League Semifinals, no one could have guessed such a close finish in Munich. Chelsea, only appearing in one Champion’s League Final prior to Saturday, lost to Manchester United in the 2007/2008 Final on penalty kicks (6-5) exactly four years ago today.
Saturday’s match brought tension from the start. Both teams missing several players due to red card suspensions, but advantage to Bayern Munich as they play in their home stadium, Allianz Arena in front of a monster crowd. A tight first half saw several chances for both sides, but Bayern looked more impressive as Chelsea was fortunate to hold them to zero.
Bayern was destined to score though, and in the 83rd minute, Muller put a header nearly straight down from a Kroos cross. The goal sent the stadium into a frenzy. Something must have sparked in Chelsea’s confidence though, because they finally decided to show up on the attack.
Juan Mata‘s cross was short, and a tall Didier Drogba positioned himself for a laser to the near post. Munich keeper Manuel Neuer got a palm on it, but such a lethal strike could not be stopped. The equalizer came with only two minutes to play in regular time. Neither team could assemble a quick game-winner before the whistle, so teams were forced into extra time.
Bayern got a stroke of hope when Drogba clipped Ribery in the box, yielding a penalty. Arjen Robben struck a blast to the low right and Petr Cech was able to block it and recover the deflection. It may as well have taken the wind from Bayern’s sails.
The penalty shoot out that followed extra time was every bit exciting as the previous 120 minutes. Bayern sunk their first three, which made for a promising start as Mata missed his first, putting pressure all on Chelsea. Fourth shot by Munich sub Ivica Olic (in for Ribery, 97′) missed and as Ashley Cole delivered to put all equal.
In a shocking miss for German legend Bastian Schweinsteiger, Ivory Coast’s main man could bring home a UEFA Champion’s League title and rid the Blues of their nightmare from 2008. And that’s just what he did.
Now the Blues face restructuring questions for next year. Will Drogba stay another year? Will interim head coach DiMatteo be promoted and sign a contract? After a shaky season, Chelsea fans must be relieved to have claimed the title and excited about next season.