Didier Drogba was an ecstatic man as Chelsea won a historic first Champions League crown to shatter Bayern Munich’s dreams of winning the title at their home stadium.
Drogba stepped up to rifle home the decisive penalty as Chelsea clinched a 4-3 shoot-out victory after 120 minutes of nerve-shredding drama in front of a partisan crowd at Bayern’s Allianz Arena.
Drogba had also rescued Chelsea with an 88th-minute equaliser to cancel out what had looked like a winning goal from Thomas Mueller for Bayern as 90 minutes finished with the sides locked at 1-1.
Drogba’s winning spot-kick was a fairytale ending for the 34-year-old Ivorian striker, who had been sent off in the final minutes of Chelsea’s Champions League final defeat in Moscow four years ago.
“In Moscow it was very difficult, very painful for the players, for the club, for the fans, and we managed to change it and again it was an amazing game, a crazy game,” said Drogba. “I wanted to make Chelsea smile compared to the other time where we were all down and some were crying. So I’m happy we made them smile.”
It was an agonising defeat for Bayern, who saw Bastian Schweinsteiger miss with their final kick to give Drogba the opportunity to cement his place in the pantheon of Chelsea legends.
Chelsea goal-keeper Petr Cech was the club’s other hero on the night, saving from Oliv to get his team back into the shoot-out after Juan Mata had missed the Premier League side’s opening effort.
Cech had earlier saved a Bayern penalty from Arjen Robben in the first period of extra time as the English side defied the odds once more.
The win capped a rollercoaster season for Chelsea, whose campaign has been transformed since Roberto Di Matteo was appointed as interim manager in March following the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas.
Di Matteo has guided the club to a Champions League and FA Cup double in the space of a fortnight and is now favourite to land the job on a full-time basis.
“Football and life is sometimes unpredictable and crazy, and I don’t think anybody could have predicted what’s happened in the last few months of this season,” said Di Matteo.
“We’ve had a very difficult season and to finish off like this is an incredible achievement by this team.”
But the loss left Bayern shattered as their dream of lifting their fifth European title ended in agony.
“We missed too many chances,” admitted Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes. “We played well overall and had the majority of possession. “But we didn’t know how to exploit our many opportunities and you have to use them or you will be punished.”
Roberto Di Matteo
“The players worked hard for many years. Four years ago they had a painful experience, but now they’re on the other side. It’s difficult to win, and you have to take your chance when it comes.”
“We must blame ourselves. If you score in the 83rd minute you should keep this result. Then you have a penalty in extra-time, and you miss. Chelsea was a lucky team, they put on a real fight.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2012.
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