Chelsea's grand larceny leaves Bayern Munich gobsmacked
The Blues nick the Champions League trophy for the first time - after a nail-biting penalty shoot-out
Bayern Munich 1, Chelsea 1 (Chelsea win 4-3 on penalties). Didier Drogba stole the show in Germany last night but the man who did more than most to steal the Champions League trophy from under the noses of Bayern Munich was Petr Cech.
The Chelsea keeper was magnificent, saving a penalty in extra-time from Arjen Robben and then pulling off two more spot-kick saves in the shootout as the Blues became champions of Europe for the first time in their history.
Drogba played his part in the triumph, heading home Juan Mata’s corner on 88 minutes to equalise Thomas Muller’s goal six minutes earlier. Drogba’s powerful header took the game into extra-time in which the big Ivorian striker nearly went from hero to villain. A clumsy trip on Bayern midfielder Franck Ribery left referee Pedro Proenca no option but to award the penalty.
Up stepped Robben and down went Cech, diving to his left and smothering the spot-kick. Drogba looked to the heavens and said a small prayer, but his gratitude would have been better directed at his goalkeeper and not God.
The shootout began ominously for Chelsea, who in truth had been comprehensively outplayed throughout a tense 120 minutes. Bayern captain Philipp Lahm stroked home the first penalty and then Juan Mata had his shot saved by German keeper Manuel Neuer.
No player erred again until Bayern’s fourth attempt, and Ivica Olic’s shot that was well parried by a diving Cech. Ashley Cole held his nerve and suddenly it was Bayern under pressure.
Memories of the 1999 Champions League final – when they allowed Manchester United to steal their thunder in the final minutes – no doubt began to surface among the many thousands of fans massed behind the goal as Bastian Schweinsteiger faced Cech.
Once again the Chelsea keeper showed his brilliance, leaping low to his left and with his fingertips pushing the shot onto the post. Schweinsteiger covered his face with his shirt as Drogba – who else? – stroked home the winning penalty to send the Blues fans ballistic at the far end of the ground.
“I was really confident of saving at least one,” explained Cech later. “I went the right way for the first three, then I got one and thought: 'Why not another?'”
The Chelsea keeper then paid tribute to Drogba, saying: “When he scored, for the first time in my life I didn't know what to do. I heard him crying. I was crying, shouting. It was unbelievable!”
The Chelsea captain on the night, Frank Lampard, who collected the trophy along with the suspended club captain John Terry, also lavished praise on Drogba. “He’s a hero. Without him we’re not here. He scores the goals in the big games.”
The 33-year-old Lampard, who scored one of Chelsea’s penalties, described the victory as one of the “greatest days of my life”, adding: "It took so long. I've been here for 11 years so I've been waiting for this baby for a long time. To do it the way we did, and considering the season we've had, it's amazing."
“Desolation” was the word used to describe the atmosphere in the Bayern dressing room in the wake of Chelsea’s grand larceny. Few players wanted to talk to the media and those that did were clearly stunned by what had unfolded in the Allianz Arena.
"That is football, we have seen it in the past,” muttered Thomas Muller. “It is not always the better team that have the cup in the end.”
Not the best, maybe, but the bravest.