Let’s be honest, nobody had Chelsea or Bayern Munich even making this game. At the start of the competition the heavy favourites were Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona who were eliminated in the semi-finals. It was the sixth best team in England through the league season and the third best team from the city of London, Chelsea facing off against the German heavyweights, Bayern Munich. Chelsea had endured a tumultuous season where they struggled in the league and fell to sixth, including being behind local rivals Arsenal and Tottenham however they had experience some joy winning the FA Cup over Liverpool. Bayern had also experienced a disappointing year spending most of the season playing second fiddle to Dortmund, losing the German Cup final 5-2 to them and finishing the league season as runners up, eight points behind them. For both of these clubs though they would be offered the ultimate shot at salvation on club football’s biggest stage, the UEFA Champions League Final.
Both teams would be severely undermanned for the final, missing several players through suspension and injuries. Chelsea sprung a major selection shock in the pregame, choosing to start the unknown Ryan Bertrand ahead of seasoned veteran Florent Malouda, so far down the pecking order was Bertrand, he was not included in Chelsea’s initial 25 man squad for the group stages. Chelsea would do their best to repel the attacks of Bayern and look to hit on the counter attack and take advantage of the lethal Didier Drogba up front. Bayern meanwhile would be relying on their all-star attackers of Mario Gomez, Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller, all of whom are capable of scoring at will. It was shaping up to be a match of contrasting styles with the ruthlessly efficient Germans, against the pragmatic English squad.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the final played out the way you would expect a game of this magnitude to. Neither team looked like they were in top form with Bayern’s star-studded forward line spurning chances while Chelsea’s desperate defending seemed to be just enough to get by. It was far from a good advertisement for the game of football, but with so much riding on it, the palpable tension in the stadium made for a great atmosphere. Frank Ribery was giving the Chelsea defense fits by making penetrating runs down the flank but every time they came to nothing as the Blues did enough. Mario Gomez, Bayern’s prolific young striker with a goal tally to rival the top strikers in Europe, spurned every good chance he got on the day leading to a frustrating night for him. Chelsea’s Ashley Cole, put in a Herculean effort at left back making critical challenges and failing to put a foot wrong for the whole night.
The one mistake that Cole made however very nearly cost Chelsea the match as in the 83rd minute, he was caught ball watching off a back post cross and Thomas Muller was able to sneak in behind to power a header home past Petr Cech. It was a textbook header as Muller drove the ball into the ground and Cech just could not catch up with the ball rising. With 10 minutes to play Bayern looked like they would get through in their home stadium. Chelsea however managed to show the resiliency that has become a trademark in the Roberto di Matteo era and they won a corner in the 88th minute (their first of the game) that would prove vital. Juan Mata whipped in a cross to the near post and Didier Drogba powered a header past the Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer who had no chance due to the pace on the ball. The game was tied up and it looked like we would be heading to extra time.
Both teams would have chances to win it in the 30 minutes of extra time but none would be better than Bayern’s penalty in the fourth minute of the first half. Drogba tripped Ribery as he was making another run into the box and the referee pointed to the spot. At first it looked like the contact was minimal but Ribery would not return to the game, his ankle getting the better of him and he would be replaced by the Croatian Ivicia Olic. Arjen Robben stepped up to the spot and fired the ball to the attacking right but Cech was equal to the task, stopping the ball and taking the pace off it enough to allow him to pounce on the rebound. Both teams failed to capitalise on their chances and the European club champion would be decided in a penalty shootout.
Any football historian knows that when England and Germany face off in a shootout, fortune traditionally favours the Germans (or anyone playing England really). It looked like the pattern would continue early as Juan Mata of Chelsea missed the first spot kick after Phillipp Lahm had scored for the Germans. The second round had both teams scoring as Mario Gomez and David Luiz sent their balls into the back of the net. Somewhat surprisingly the Bayern goalie Manuel Neuer took the third kick and he placed the ball perfectly to put Bayern up 3-1, Frank Lampard responded by firing the next shot into the roof of the net with Neuer being a fraction slow on the reaction. Parity was restored in the fourth round as Ivicia Olic failed to convert and Ashley Cole scored his shot. Bastian Schweinsteiger took the German’s fifth shot and missed his shot. It would come down to Didier Drogba the man who had been dropped to the bench earlier in the season, to take the game winning spot kick. Drogba held his nerve and sent Neuer the wrong way as the ball went into the net. Chelsea players, coaches, fans and the owner went absolutely ballistic as their club had broken their hoodoo, eliminating the demons from Moscow in 2008 to claim the title as Champions of Europe. It was not pretty by any means but it won’t matter one iota to the Blues because they got the result they wanted and will still be celebrating their achievement now.