|Chelsea FC are the 2012 European Champions|
Chelsea FC, after overcoming a train wreck in the first half of the season, have topped off their revival under Roberto Di Matteo by being crowned the 2012 UEFA Champions League Champions in a thrilling penalty shootout in Munich.
Despite being the true away side and arguably the underdogs to the German giants, The Blues kept their composure in the penalty shootout, Cech making a save and, with a little luck for the visitors, Schweinsteiger hitting the post. Didier Drogba was once again the hero for Chelsea and continues to dominate the European football stage with another stunning goal that put his side level after they conceded in the 82nd minute.
German attacking midfielder Thomas Muller had the opening goal in the final fixture with a cheeky offensive header off of the ground and over the head of Petr Cech but Muller and the rest of the Bayern Munich side missed many easy chances from the opening five minutes on and those misses proved to be terribly costly.
In the opening minutes of the match, Chelsea were defending like mad. Cole could have been booked in the first forty seconds when he brought down Ribery but the referee determined that it was too early to punish the English defender.
Schweinsteiger made it into the referees book just a minute later when he blatantly handled the ball just outside the Chelsea penalty area. The booking had little effect on the German midfielder though, for he and Ribery created a great opportunity but the Frenchman whiffed it and sent the shot wide.
With five minutes gone, it was clear that Bayern Munich were the dominant side. They clearly had more possession of the ball than the visitors and, fueled by the booming cheers of their home fans, their attacks were quick and relentless. Chelsea’s tactics were nearly identical to the ones that they used against Barcelona in the semi finals. They stacked the box and focused on defense, putting on a good demonstration of catenaccio and reflecting the cultural tactical preferences of their Italian coach.
Chelsea started to get some more promising attacks in around the tenth minute, breaking free of the steady pressure from the Bayern offense. Drogba went down unconvincingly in the opinion of the Bayern Munich players and fans, but the referee awarded him the free kick. Nothing came of it, however, and Chelsea were nearly caught on the counter attack.
The fouls began to fly as the counter attacks started to occur. Chelsea were forced to break up the play more often, but Bayern started to get carried away with their attack and pushed more men up to try and break past the defensive line of Chelsea. In the few breakaway attempts that the Blues had early on, they were either snuffed out by the altered Bayern center backs or a Bayern defensive player would risk the tactical foul and give his side time to get back behind the ball.
One of Bayern’s most promising chances of the half came in the twentieth minute when Gomez, Ribery, Robben and Kroos found themselves caught up in a goaline scramble inside the Chelsea penalty area. Cech made a brilliant initial save, with some help from the post, but the ball was recovered by Mario Gomez. The big striker used an impressive bicycle kick to put the ball back into play but the unexpected and awkward cross was well dealt with by the Chelsea defense.
Chelsea tried to counter attack shortly after that and they did a brilliant job getting up the field and using the spaces left by Bayern Munich in the middle, but Saloman Kalou and his interesting hairdo were offside in the final play and the ball went to the home side.
Bayern Munich continued to send ball after ball into the Chelsea area. Many of the home supporters sounded like they were in agony as the beautifully crafted and executed crosses and through balls were met with horrid finishes and poor decisions when they mattered most. Gomez earned himself a reputation for holding the ball too long in the six yard box and Robben continuously hammered shot after shot high, wide and into the legs of Chelsea defenders.
Chelsea’s best chance of the first half came in the 36th minute when Kalou, onsides this time, was left completely unmarked as the stand-in outside defender Contento was caught up trying to help the Bayern attack. The Chelsea striker forced a great reflex save from Manuel Neuer but otherwise the young goalkeeper went unchallenged in the back and Bayern Munich continued to dominate up front.
Halftime rolled around and the scoreline was at 0-0. Bayern Munich were clearly dominating and Chelsea conceding seemed inevitable. The home fans were tense, but the spirits were high after the promising first half performance from Bayern Munich.
From the starting whistle of the second half, Bayern Munich were pressing the Chelsea goal. The second half would not be as dominant for the side in red as it would be for the side in blue, but they looked sure to find the back of the net early on in the second half. Robben and Kroos immediately bombarded the Chelsea goal with impressive shots but David Luiz and Petr Cech remained in their way.
Drogba had Chelsea’s first real shot of the half off in the 50th minute when he created an attack out of nothing, reminding the slacking Bayern defense just how dangerous and dominant he was. Bayern were soon back in possession and were threatening the Chelsea goal once again.
At the clock started to tick further away from halftime and closer to the final whistle, Bayern Munich started to grow desperate while Chelsea just prayed for a break. The Blues had another promising chance on goal in the 71st minute but Neuer and Contento kept the ball out of the back of the net with some impressive defending.
Chelsea made the first substitution of the match in the 72nd minute as the young defender Bertrand made way for Malouda. Despite coming in to make his UEFA Champions League debut in the final match, the young English defender did exceptionally well handling the constant pressure from the German side as well as the individual skills of their attackers.
Despite making a good save to keep Muller’s first offensive header out of the back of the net, Petr Cech was powerless to stop his second effort off of a excellent cross from the Bayern midfield. The young German striker met the ball awkwardly, but struck it beautifully into the ground where it bounced over the head and through the arms of the Chelsea goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
The stadium went mad and continued to cheer for the next several minutes as they believed that they were the champions of Europe but Didier Drogba, arguably the best striker in the world, silenced their cheers five minutes later with an equally impressive header. Using his superior physical strength and aerial power, the Ivory Coast striker battled his way to the ball after Torres forced the corner kick from Bayer Munich. His stunning header curled beautifully over the heads of the other players in the box and into the top corner.
The Chelsea side and fans were revived and knew that they were bound for overtime with a second chance to secure the title. Bayern Munich continued to press, but both sides knew they were bound for an additional 30 minutes of play. The final whistle sounded and both teams congregated to prepare themselves for the grueling extra time and the very real possibility of penalty kicks.
The overtime play mimicked the play that occurred in the first half. Bayern Munich continued to press, but the fatigue was evident. With six minutes of overtime gone, Ribery cramped beyond repair and was substituted for Ivica Olic. The Croatian striker immediately made an impact and forced a corner kick from Chelsea. Robben’s effort was poor though and the ball went well over the bar. As overtime ticked on and neared the halfway point, Chelsea started to press the fatiguing Bayern side. Drogba made a great run in the closing seconds of the first half, but he was flagged offside and the ref blew the whistle to signal the end of the first fifteen minutes of extra time.
The second fifteen was nearly identical to the first. Bayern Munich bombarded the Chelsea goal with attack after attack, throwing away several glorious opportunities as they faced open nets and scrambling defenses but their attacking players just couldn’t find the back of the net. The pace slowed more and more by the minute, and Chelsea appeared to be too tired to even attempt to make an attack. Like the closing minutes of the first half, both sides seemed to know that the penalty shootout was now inevitable. Several of the players dropped to the ground in exhaustion as the ref blew his whistle, but they were brought to their feet by the loud cheers from their fans as they prepared for the most tense ten minutes of their entire season.
Bayern were the first ones to step up to the spot. Their captain Phillip Lahm took the kick well and sent the ball flying into the side netting. Mata was the first to step up for the Londoners, but the young Spaniard failed to put his shot in the back of the net after Neuer made a brilliant save. Munich had the 1-0 advantage as Gomez stepped up to the spot and calmly beat Cech to make it 2-0. David Luiz stepped up for Chelsea and hammered his shot into the roof of the net to beat Neuer. The Bayern Munich keeper himself stepped up to take the next kick and beat Cech from the spot. With the scoreline at 3-1 in favor of Bayern Lampard had no option but to put the ball in the back of the net and he did just that, beating Neuer with ease and alleviating some of the pressure on his fellow players. Olic had some breathing space, but the Croatian stepped up and took one of the most predicable kicks of the match, making the save an easy one for Cech. Ashley Cole stepped up to put Chelsea level 3-3 and put all of the pressure on the Bayern Munich attacking midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger. His step up to the shot was dramatic, he paused to see if he could fake out Cech, but he ended up damaging himself. The German’s penalty kick dinked painfully off the post and out of the net. Although there was still one more kick to be taken, the game was over. Drogba made no mistake and passed his shot gracefully into the back of the net.
Chelsea won the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final in dramatic style after they were the underdogs in nearly every fixture they played out in the knockout stage. They overcame deficits, scored dramatic winners in extra time, and topped off their dream campaign with a huge win over the home side in Munich, Germany to be crowned the Kings of Europe.