After years of coming close, after the heartbreak of losing to Manchester United in the 2008 final, after millions of pounds of investment and a revolving door of managers, Chelsea have finally added the one trophy that they coveted the most; the Champions League.
It was a result that no one would have expected at the beginning of the season. After a poor domestic run, and losing 3-1 against Napoli in the first leg of their second round game in this tournament, Chelsea looked to be on the brink of disaster. However owner Roman Abramovich intervened; manager Andre Villas-Boas was sacked and interim manager Roberto Di Matteo was put in charge. Suddenly the club was transformed. They went on to beat Napoli in the second leg, improved domestically, shocked the world when they beat Barcelona in the semis, won the FA Cup, and then travelled to Munich to make club history.
Chelsea were undoubtedly the underdogs for this encounter, but it is a label that they have thrived under lately. They were without the suspended John Terry, Ramires, Raul Meireles and Branislav Ivanovic while David Luiz and Gary Cahill were playing while nursing injuries. The German side also had the huge advantage of playing at home. However Chelsea held their ground and put in another heroic defensive display to deny Bayern Munich any advantage in the first half. Luiz, Cole and Cahill flung themselves in front of opposition shots as Muller, Mario Gomez, Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben tried to hit the back of the net.
Munich had several very good chances to go ahead in the first half. Jose Bosingwa was nut-megged inside his own box and Robben took a shot from near point blank range. Cech reacted brilliantly and deflected the ball onto the post. Later, Gomez had a brilliant chance to score just before the halftime whistle when he received the ball just 10 yards from goal. However his touch left him momentarily and he sent the ball flying high into row Z.
The second half continued much like the first, with Chelsea playing most of the game in their own half. Ribéry almost put the home side ahead when he put the ball in the back of the net, but he was ruled to be offside. Muller also squandered a golden opportunity when he shot from close range but managed to drag the ball across the face of goal and miss the target.
However Muller made up for this in the 83rd minute when he headed in Toni Kroos’ cross. It looked like it was going to be Munich’s night as the German’s celebrated but the London side weren’t finished yet. Torres came on for Kalou and Chelsea pushed forward. They won a corner and Lampard swung in a brilliant ball. Drogba, used all his strength and skill to angle his header into the Munich net and Chelsea were level. The game went into extra-time.
Early in the first half of extra-time Drogba was deemed to foul Ribéry in the box and the referee immediately pointed to the penalty spot. Replays showed the contact was minimal but the Frenchman had to be stretchered off injured. Robben stepped up to the mark but his poorly struck penalty was saved valiantly by Cech. The game ended and went to penalties.
Juan Mata missed the first for Chelsea and Munich got three on the bounce to leave Chelsea trailing 3-2. However Ivica Olic’s penalty was then saved by Cech and Bastian Schweinsteiger hit the post. With the scores level, Drogba took the long walk to the penalty spot. The big man, a hero of so many big moments for his club, hit the mark with a calm shot and Chelsea became the Champions of Europe for the first time in their 107 year history. The Blue section of the stadium erupted as Drogba, Lampard, Cole and the rest of the team circled the pitch in celebration.
Suspended John Terry was allowed to lift the trophy along with Frank Lampard and even Roman Abramovich made a rare appearance with the players to revel in the celebrations. For him, and for many of the old guard, it was a long time coming but hugely deserved after seasons of hard work. Now thoughts turn to Di Matteo, who must surely must be secured as the man to lead Chelsea into next season.