by David Fleenor
Chelsea followed the same script in the Champions League final that earned them a place in the final and once again it paid off as they outlasted Bayern Munich in penalty kicks to hoist their first Champions League trophy. But the result or the method of achieving the silver has left the ‘beautiful game’ feeling the blues.
There is no doubt that Chelsea deserve the title of champion! They defeated the previous holders, Barcelona, in the semifinal and repeatedly overcame deficits that would have sunk other sides. In winning the title, Chelsea become only the 22nd team to win Europe’s top prize and the first team from London to accomplish that goal.
But the manner which they jumped the final hurdle was less than spectacular in a game that had so much promise for attacking football. With Bayern missing three regular defensive players and with the Blues having so much attacking potential – Didier Drogba, Fernando Torres, and Frank Lampard along with the creative mind of Juan Mata, Chelsea opted to follow the script of defend first and be opportunistic on the counter attack.
Against Barcelona this made sense, and was probably the only way to hope for a result but against a Bayern Munich side that finished third in the Bundesliga and lost 5-2 earlier in the month in the DFB Cup it was certain that Chelsea had given up on the ‘beautiful game.’
The result in the play was as expected. Bayern had more of the possession and created the majority of chances with Chelsea hoping to find openings when they were gifted to them.
The German machine was dominant. In the first 90 minutes, Bayern fired 35 shots at the Chelsea goal – the high mark in this year’s competition. With 8,9, even 10 players behind the ball cluttering the box, Chelsea blocked 22 attempts, a high mark not seen in the past NINE Champions League seasons.
Nevertheless, the beautiful game appeared to win the day with Thomas Muller’s goal in the 83rd minute. The German international finished his far post run with a well struck header in the 83rd minute and the home fans were ecstatic. A fifth European Cup/Champions League trophy was on its way to the club house.
But not so fast!
With the task at hand to score, Chelsea decided to push into the attack and they looked like a team that should have been attacking from the opening whistle. The combination of Drogba and Torres tested the defending of Bayern.
But surely Chelsea remarkable run surviving on multiple occasions by the skin of their teeth through the elimination round was over!
In the 88th minute, Chelsea earned their FIRST corner kick of the afternoon, compared to the 20 that Bayern had served up, and Drogba made the Germans pay. The Ivory Coast international placed a perfect, well paced header the Manuel Neuer could only get a hand to but not keep out of the top corner and the game was headed to extra time.
At the start of the extra time period, Chelsea had some moments apparently they must have forgotten that the plan called for defending when the scoreline was level and pulled back with Drogba and Torres defending more than attacking.
Beyern did what the had all day, create chances but let them go begging. Arjen Robben had his penalty saved by Petr Čech in the 95th minute and second half substitute Ivica Olić was too unselfish in the 108th minute. The Croatian found space at the far post at the corner of the 6-yard box but rather than put it on goal he laid it off only for none of his teammates to provide the final touch.
The final touch was the only ingredient missing for Bayern for much of the day.
"We must blame ourselves for having so many opportunities without profiting,” Jupp Heynckes told UEFA.com. “When you score in the 83rd minute you need to keep that lead"
The penalty shoot out mirrored the match. Bayern grabbed the early advantage with Neuer making the first save of Mata’s effort but it did not last with Bayern unable to convert their final two PK’s, the final attempt from Bastian Schweinsteiger was somehow appropriately sent past Čech but denied by the post, and Chelsea were champions.
"Football, and life, is sometimes unpredictable and crazy,” Di Matteo said on UEFA.com after the match. “I don't think anyone could have predicted this."
Football is unpredictable and crazy but fans certainly hoped for more than just a title from Chelsea.
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