Drogba fulfils Chelsea dream
Didier Drogba tucked away the decisive penalty as Chelsea fulfilled a long-standing ambition to win the UEFA Champions League.
Last Updated: 19/05/12 11:31pm
Didier Drogba tucked away the decisive penalty as Chelsea fulfilled a long-standing ambition to win the UEFA Champions League after a thrilling shoot-out victory over Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena.
Bayern had numerous chances to wreck the dream of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, manager Roberto Di Matteo and his players, and even led 3-1 in the shoot-out after goalkeeper Manuel Neuer had scored.
But Ivica Olic and Bastian Schweinsteiger both failed from the spot to allow Drogba, on potentially his final appearance for the club, to step up to erase the heartache of Moscow four years ago.
Thomas Muller's 83rd minute header had earlier appeared likely to give Bayern victory on their home ground, only for Drogba's stunning riposte to send the game into extra-time.
Drogba blotted his copybook by conceding a penalty early into extra-time, only for Petr Cech to deny Arjen Robben and the veteran Ivorian, who was sent off in the final against Manchester United in 2008, completed his redemption by maintaining his composure in the shoot-out.
Di Matteo sent Chelsea out with a game-plan to contain Bayern and, for the most part, the policy worked as Jupp Heynckes' side sought to pick holes in a resolute defence.
Midway through the first half, Robben wriggled into space inside the box, but the former Chelsea winger was denied by a smart reaction stop from Cech, who diverted the ball onto the post.
Mario Gomez, who had scored 20 goals in his previous 17 Champions League appearances, was enduring a frustrating night and he skied over just before half-time as Bayern remained the dominant force.
The second half followed the same pattern as the first as a marginal offside decision against Franck Ribery went Chelsea's way when the French winger turned home the loose ball after Robben's shot had been blocked by Ashley Cole.
The Blues full-back appeared to be a magnet for the ball inside the box, but a momentary lapse from Cole allowed Bayern to take the lead with seven minutes to go.
Toni Kroos curled in a cross from the left and Cole seemed unaware of Muller's presence behind him at the back post as the Germany international's header bounced down and over Cech before going in off the underside of the crossbar.
Bayern brought on Daniel van Buyten in a bid to shut the game down, but were punished with two minutes left when Drogba powerfully headed home at the near post from Chelsea's first corner of the game.
Drogba looked primed to go from hero to villain three minutes into extra-time when he tripped Ribery in the box, but Cech spared the striker as he kept out former team-mate Robben's low penalty.
Cech was again on song in the shoot-out to thwart substitute Olic and Schweinsteiger before Drogba sent the travelling Chelsea hordes into raptures.
From his place in the stands, Chelsea's Russian owner Abramovich was clearly overjoyed, as was the suspended John Terry, who watched the tense shoot-out unfold from the touchline, on roughly the same spot he had prowled three hours earlier.
It was the most visual example of the damage Chelsea did to themselves by getting four men suspended in that backs-to-the-wall semi-final epic with Barcelona.
And once the game started, it was just the kind of blood-and-guts encounter Terry excels in.
Assisted by the obvious advantage of playing at home, Bayern got themselves on the front foot immediately and were rarely pushed back.
The nearest they came was when former Chelsea man Robben glided past two defenders, then drilled a low shot towards goal, which Cech managed to deflect high onto a post, with Robben barely able to believe he had failed.
Robben had another couple of chances, although neither were as good as the one that Muller volleyed wide.
Robben and Muller combined to create an opening for Gomez that he looked certain to capitalise on after a deft body movement had left Gary Cahill stranded, only for the Bayern sharp-shooter to lash over.
Handed a surprise start, Ryan Bertrand coped well. It was on the other side where Ribery was proving to be a complete menace.
What they did at the Camp Nou, though, has given Chelsea immense belief in their own durability.
Indeed, they might have had something to celebrate themselves had Juan Mata kept his curling free-kick down or Salomon Kalou been able to direct a shot away from Neuer after Frank Lampard and Drogba combined to set him up from an admittedly acute angle.
The pattern continued after half-time and Ribery thought he had grabbed a deserved opener when he snaffled the loose ball after Cole had blocked Robben's goalbound shot. The offside flag cut German celebrations short.
Cole's involvement was part of an outstanding contribution from the full-back, who seemed to be in the way of nearly all the threats to Chelsea's goal.
He denied both Robben and Kroos as Cole enhanced his status as one of the few truly world-class players England coach Roy Hodgson will have at his disposal at Euro 2012.
The sense of Chelsea disappointment at Bayern finally breaching their defences must have been made more acute by the knowledge that, when Kroos curled a cross beyond the far post, there appeared very little danger.
Muller intelligently headed the ball hard and down, which meant it bounced up towards the crossbar, possibly catching Cech by surprise as he seemed in the perfect position to prevent it ending up in the net.
But Abramovich's team are made of stern stuff. And with barely a minute remaining, and Muller replaced by an extra defender in Van Buyten, Drogba rose at the near post to power Mata's corner home.
This time there was nothing the goalkeeper could do, the ball speeding past Neuer at such pace, from so close, there was no time for reaction.
The drama continued into extra-time as Drogba bundled Ribery over in the box.
Robben seemed unaffected by the delay as his penalty headed for the bottom corner. Cech was equal to it though, making a superb save to his left and then smothering the rebound.
It was the kind of moment that made you think fate had decreed a Chelsea win, a belief only strengthened by Bayern passing up two clear openings in the second period of those additional 30 minutes.
As Di Matteo pointed out on Friday, you make your own luck. More than anyone, he deserves praise for hauling round a season that appeared to be heading for disaster in February and he must now wait to learn if he will keep the manager's job permanently.And the only ones not acclaiming that achievement were Tottenham, who in a cruel twist are now denied a place in next season's Champions League.
|FC Bayern München||Team Statistics||Chelsea|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|7||Shots on Target||3|
|14||Shots off Target||3|
|59.3||1st Half Poss.||40.7|
|51.1||2nd Half Poss.||48.9|