It was a performance of stoic riposte. Playing two left-backs in Ashley Cole –who was outstanding in blocking cross after cross –and Ryan Bertrand, Roberto Di Matteo set out his stall. He wanted to contain the wide threats of Bayern Munich and in John Obi Mikel and an uncharacteristically deep Frank Lampard he had guard dogs in front of the box.
Of course this still was not enough, and Chelsea benefited from laziness and limpness from the Bayern front line.
Mario Gomez missed enough chances to haunt him the rest of his career and in Arjen Robben the Munich side have someone who could have won the game, but instead ploughed on with selfish pursuits, trying to win the game single handedly and blazes shot after shot high and wide or straight at a blocker.
Robben missed a penalty on extra time which would have won the contest, but he clapped it to his right and into the yearning limbs of Petr Cech. How did he make up for this? By demanding to take free-kicks and screaming for the ball more, even though everyone in the 80-odd thousand stadium knew he would dink, cut inside and shoot.
The Dutchman was the biggest reason Bayern could not consolidate.
There were goals. Two in fact. Bayern midfielder pealed round the back of Ashley Cole in the 83rd minute to ricochet a header into the ground and into the net to lead, but minutes later the force of Didier Drogba equalized for Chelsea as he popped his neck to thunder a header past the Bayern defense. Normal time ended 1-1.
So the game limped into extra time, and despite Robben’s penalty mishap there were no clear cut opportunities. It fell to a showdown at the penalty spot.
Bayern’s huge goalkeeper Manuel Neuer did his best to put everyone off and when the German clubs leader Phillip Lahm powered in from the spot and then sank to his knees screaming at the home support behind there was a sense that the unstoppable force would finally budge the immovable object. Then Neuer saved the following penalty by Juan Mata…
It stayed at advantage Bayern –it must be said that there were two magnificent penalties taken here, too, with David Luiz crushing a penalty high into the net and then Neuer himself coolly slotting Bayern’s third –but then the tide turned.
There were nonsensical re-utterances of a line Petr Cech had issued on Thursday: “It is written in the stars”. All the TV stations in the UK were using the phrase. However, when Cech dipped to save a softly placed strike by Ivica Olic you knew it was not just vapid words.
Ashley Cole placed his shot in an unreachable zone and then Mr. Bayern himself, Bastian Schweinsteiger, was picked off by Cech. When Drogba strolled up to take the last kick it was all over. Chelsea had closed out the Champions League final.
There were celebrations and lines of people coming onto the pitch, but while much will be made of Chelsea’s practices, personnel and future in this moment they had done what it takes and they must be congratulated. The odds were upset and Chelsea boorishly ignored the home crowd, the mood of the event and the hope for slick football.