Champions League Review: Chelsea champions after penalties

The 2012 Champions League trophy is in the books following a never to be forgotten night in Munich. The Allianz Arena played host to an intriguing Bayern Munich vs. Chelsea final that may have lacked much in the way of goalmouth action but more than made up for with the Premier League side’s never-say-die attitude that eventually secured the trophy.

Roberto Di Matteo’s defensive tactics of containing the much vaunted Munich attack rather than taking on the Germans at their own counter-attacking game reaped dividends as Bayern struggled to convert their superiority into goals. It wasn’t pretty to watch for long stretches but Chelsea fans won’t care one iota waking up this morning hung-over in Bavaria. Ashley Cole best epitomised the London club’s resilient effort with a succession of important blocks and tackles which helped repel everything Munich could throw at the Chelsea back four. The longer Bayern went without scoring the more their frustrations grew until Muller’s opening goal in the dying embers appeared to have stolen it for the host team.

Chelsea are nothing if not resilient since Di Matteo took over though and it was fitting that the player who has done so much to deliver trophies during the Abramovich era was on hand to head an equaliser from the Premier League club’s one and only corner of the opening 90 minutes. Didier Drogba has now netted an astonishing 9 goals in 9 finals and bulleted a leveller beyond Manuel Neuer just minutes after falling behind to send the final to extra time.

If Drogba was a hero on that occasion he quickly turned into a villain when conceding a penalty minutes into additional time for an ungainly trip on Franck Ribery. Up stepped former Stamford Bridge fan-favourite Arjen Robben – who endured a mixed evening in Munich’s colours – only to be denied by another crucial Chelsea player, Peter Cech. The giant goalkeeper saved Robben’s spot-kick and went on to become an even bigger hero in the ensuing shoot-out to cement Chelsea’s memorable win. It was hard not to feel sorry for Bayern at the end, especially Bastian Schweinsteiger whose penalty miss in the shoot-out handed Drogba the opportunity to seal victory. The Ivorian may not be in blue much longer but his parting gift of the winning spot kick to deliver the European Cup was a nice way to go out.

Not even the sight of the suspended John Terry in full kit and insisting on being the centre of attention once the trophy was presented could spoil Chelsea’s night and there was even a rare smile from club owner Abramovich as he finally got his hands on the Champions League trophy his billion pound investment has finally delivered.

It promises to be an interesting few months for the newly crowned European Champions with interim manager Roberto Di Matteo unlikely to keep his job despite winning two trophies in as many months. Some of the old guard may finally leave Stamford Bridge and a new coach with new ideas will be expected to herald in a new era at the club. For now though, Chelsea fans should bask in the glory of an unforgettable European campaign which has elevated the club to the pantheon of the continent’s top club’s and an amazing night in the Allianz Arena .

The First Half

Bayern dominated much of the early possession with Ribery and Gomez pressing the untried defensive tandem of Cahill and Luiz at the earliest opportunity. Not even Bastian Schweinsteiger’s yellow card failed to deter the Germans from creating the better chances as a Gomez header flew high and wide under pressure from David Luiz. Chelsea had little choice but to concede territory for long periods and rarely progressed beyond the halfway line through a combination of poor passing and no available outlet. Bayern’s high defensive line kept the home side on the front foot and a succession of corners on the 20 minute mark had Bosingwa miss-kicking in front of his goal as the pressure mounted.

Cech did well to deny Robben with his feet on the 20 minute mark and with Toni Kroos imperious in the centre of the park it remained one-way traffic for the entire opening half hour. Bayern forced seven consecutive corners but were unable to capitalise as Chelsea’s defence remained steadfast and the Premier League club slowly worked their way into the final. The odd free-kick won by Didier Drogba alleviated the pressure on Chelsea’s back four for a time yet there was little denying that Ramires’ absence was being felt without a midfield runner to take the game to the Bundesliga side. Cech kept out a Robben effort for the second time before Mata wasted a free kick 25 yards out during a rare foray forward from the Londoners.

The statistic of passes completed: Bayern 174 to Chelsea’s 82 after 32 minutes underlined the Germans superiority and how Di Matteo appeared unable to change the pattern of the game from the sideline. It took Neuer’s first involvement of the evening in denying Kalou to remind Bayern of their opponents’ ability to break from deep before Mario Gomez turned Gary Cahill at the opposite end of the pitch and skied the best opening of a tight first half well wide of the target.

Munich went in the happier side at the break having created 16 opportunities and despite only getting 2 on target they remained well in control of a Chelsea side lacking ideas and creativity. Di Matteo’s side kept their shape well throughout the opening 45 minutes and seemed content with their game plan of containing Bayern rather than taking them on which was frustrating the home supporter s the minutes ticked by.

The Second Half

The second period began much as the first concluded within Bayern pressing forward and Chelsea defending en masse. Cole had to slide in to prevent Robben from darting into the area while Luiz’s head diverted a Kroos long range effort away for a corner. The pressure looked to have finally told on an overworked Chelsea back four when Ribery swept home a close range shot only for the assistant linesman to flag for an apparent offside. It was a close decision to say the least but the Premier League side survived.

The Allianz Arena was bathed in a ring of smoke from flares left off just after half time but as the minutes ticked away the anxiety in the stands (as well as on the pitch) was crystal clear as Bayern’s frustrations grew. Ashley Cole typified Chelsea’s resilience with an important block of another Robben shot after an hour had passed. The German side’s inability to create any sort of opening from multiple corner kicks only increased the home supporters’ angst as it appeared only a moment of magic – or horrific mistake – would lead to an opening goal.

Wave after wave of Bayern attacks continued to flounder in the final third with Chelsea happy to sit deep and soak up the pressure. Two banks of four players plus Mata picking up any loose Munich defenders meant Di Matteo’s side looked comfortable defending their 18 yard box as the final lurched towards its concluding 15 minutes. Whilst the lack of chances may not have made for popular viewing the world class defending on show from Cole, Luiz and Cahill was just as compelling. Yet another Robben long range strike failed to trouble Cech before a run and cross from Drogba caused momentary panic in the Munich penalty area eventually leading to Neuer being forced into a save from Malouda.

Bertrand went off injured for Chelsea having impressed with his work rate and distribution minutes before a marauding Robben dart into the box resulted in Cech palming over his crossbar. Muller looked completely shorn of confidence and miss-kicked wide of the goal when well placed as the sceptre of extra time began to loom.

Neither side appeared likely to break the deadlock until Thomas Muller ghosted in behind Ashley Cole at the far post to send a header into the ground and over Cech for a 1-0 lead. A wave of relief flushed over the Allianz Arena as Bayern fans erupted in joy at Muller’s goal while Roberto Di Matteo had little choice but to bring on Fernando Torres in an effort to snatch a late equaliser. A radical change of tactics was necessary if Chelsea were to have any hope of grabbing a leveller although little was expected when the Premier League side won their first corner of the evening 2 minutes from time. Instead the tireless Didier Drogba rose like a stag to bullet a ferocious header into the roof of the net from Mata’s in-swinging delivery to send the Chelsea fans into delirium.

80 minutes without a goal and then 2 within minutes at the end of a breathless finale. It ended 1-1 with the closing 10 minutes more exciting than anything that had gone before it.

The Extra Time

Chelsea decided to change tact and attacked Bayern from the opening minutes of extra time. Munich survived a few scary moments before Drogba was adjudged to have pushed Ribery and the referee pointed to the spot. Arjen Robben stepped forward but Peter Cech came to his side’s rescue with a marvellous save and things for even worse moments later when the Germans lost the influential Ribery to injury. The remainder of the opening half of additional time saw a fractious pattern with neither team able to conjure up a second strike. The teams changed ends for the final time with just 15 minutes left to decide a winner otherwise penalties would be required.

A Bayern cross to the far post just minutes into the second period fell to Ivica Olic but the Munich substitutes’ pull back flew across the six yard without an attacker in sight to tap into an empty net. The home side came even closer shortly afterwards when a goalmouth scramble ended with David Luiz deflecting / clearing a half volley away from danger. It was all Bayern in the closing minutes of extra time as a tired Chelsea rearguard continued to defend superbly plus the hosts weren’t helped by some poor deliveries from free-kicks which allowed the Premier League club easily clear their lines. Munich may have looked the more threatening in additional time but there were no further goals resulting in a penalty shoot out to put a name on Europe’s most famous football trophy.

The Penalties

The South end of the Allianz Arena populated by Bayern Munich fans was chosen as the goal in which the penalties would be taken. Lahm stepped up first for the hosts and just beat the hands of Cech to push Bayern in front.

Juan Mata was first up for Chelsea and saw his poor left footed effort saved by Neuer much to the delight of the massed German fans behind the goal. Advantage Bayern then and when Mario Gomez slotted home – despite Cech guessing correctly once again – Chelsea could have been forgiven for thinking they were about to witness a re-run of their previous European final defeat in Moscow.

It was left to David Luiz to get Chelsea off the mark and central defender smashed an unstoppable effort into the top corner. Goalkeeper Neuer was the surprise choice for Munich’s third spotter and rolled an unconvincing effort beyond Cech for a 3-1 lead.

It was do or die for the Premier League club now but the ever dependable Frank Lampard walloped a stunning shot straight down the middle of the goal for Chelsea’s second of the shootout. Olic was next up for Munich but Cech guessed right for the fourth consecutive penalty and pawed away the Croatian’s effort.

England international Ashley Cole levelled it up at 3-3 with a marvellous conversion and all of a sudden it was Bayern who were felling the pressure. Unbelievably Bastian Schweinsteiger’s final penalty rattled the upright and rebounded away to safety to leave Chelsea with one shot at winning the trophy.

Cometh the hour, Cometh the man and Didier Drogba made no mistake to put Neuer the wrong way and win the Champion League for a delighted Chelsea.

The Statistics

Possession: Bayern Munich 56% – Chelsea 44%
Corners: Bayern Munich 20 – Chelsea 1
Goal Attempts: Bayern Munich 43 – Chelsea 9

9 – Didier Drogba has scored nine goals in nine cup final appearances for Chelsea.
22 – Chelsea have become the 22nd different club to win the European Cup/Champions League.
11 – Chelsea have blocked 11 shots in this match; already more than any other team in any other game in the CL this season.
1 – Chelsea have only made one touch inside the Bayern Munich box after 20 mins
1 – Ryan Bertrand is the first player to make his Champions League debut in the final (CL era).
57% – Chelsea have won 57% of their Champions League games (8/14) when John Terry has been missing, compared to 49% with him.

(With thanks to OptaSports for statistics)

Author Details

Ger McCarthy
Ger McCarthy

Author of the book entitled 'Off Centre Circle'. Champions League correspondent for Back Page Football, contributor to the Hold The Back Page football podcast, also a contributor to the Irish Examiner Newspaper, SetantaSports Satellite TV Sports Network, NewsTalk National Radio station, Shoot! Magazine and Dangerhere websites.

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