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Champions League: Cech and Drogba lead Chelsea to historic win over Bayern Munich
While the 2012 Champions League Final wasn't the dream matchup of Real Madrid vs Barcelona that many soccer fans had hoped for, Chelsea and Bayern Munich did not disappoint. Petr Cech was outstanding in stopping three of Bayern's six spot kicks, while the Didier Drogba, scored the clincher, after bringing Chelsea level with a late header. As the Blues took their first ever European crown on penalties.
Edmonton - May 20, 2012 - The 2012 Champions League Final wasn't the dream matchup of Real Madrid vs Barcelona that many soccer fans around the world, had hoped to be witnessing on May 19th at Allianz Arena. Instead, two semi-final upsets left us with Chelsea taking on Bayern Munich for the right to be crowned European champions. The match was by no means a masterpiece but it was a battle that kept fans on the edge of their seats.
After playing 120 minutes without determining a winner, the two sides went to penalties...where a Czech goalkeeper and and an Ivorian footballer led the Blues to their first ever Champions League title. Goalie Petr Cech was outstanding in stopping three of Bayern's six spot kicks on the night. While the enigmatic Didier Drogba, scored yet another huge goal to get Chelsea back on level terms, late in regulation, and followed that up by blasting the shootout clincher past a helpless Manuel Neuer.
Bayern was clearly the better side in the opening forty-five minutes but had little to show for their opportunities. Outside of a splendid stop by Cech off Arjen Robben just past the twenty minute mark, Munich let Chelsea off the hook, for what was a rather poor showing in a championship game.
The Germans appeared to finally break the deadlock, ten minutes into the second half, as Franck Ribery put away a deflected ball from Robben past Cech but the goal was quickly disallowed. Ribery was in an offside position before sliding home the apparent opener, thus making the officials call the correct one.
The homeside continued pressing their English visitors but it seemed as though every quality chance they created had to run through Ashley Cole and the veteran back was more then up to the challenge. Cole turned aside one Bayern attempt after another. Be it blocking shots, clearing any loose balls or just quality positional defending, he was a tower of power all night long and at certain points, single handedly kept his team in the match.
After continuing to pour on the pressure, Bayern would finally be rewarded in the eighty-third minute. Thomas Mueller's header bounced up and over the stunned Chelsea keeper, after a lovely delivery from Toni Kroos set the play in motion. The goal sent the Germans and their fans into an all out frenzy, as they could see the light at the end of the tunnel. The title was their for the taking...unfortunately the Blues would not go down without a fight.
With extra time looming and their season in the balance, Chelsea managed to win one of their few corners of the night. Juna Mata's ball game in high and hard and an absolutely brilliant header from Drogba, brought them back from what looked to be certain defeat..That goal now gives the marksman nine goals in nine career cup finals with Chelsea. Mr.Clutch had come through one more time.
That late equalizer would send this suddenly compelling final into extra time. Two fifteen minute halves followed by penalties, if necessary would determine the winner of this year's Champions League. After what was a controversy free ninety minutes, fireworks would come early and often in the extra session.
Striker Fernando Torres was brought down inside the Munich penalty area two minutes in and yet referee Pedro Garcia Proenca? somehow felt it did not warrant a foul. To say defender Diego Contento got away with one is an understatement but to make matters worse, Drogba would be whistled down for taking down Ribery with a careless tackle from behind, only seconds later.
Ironically, that brought the former Chelsea man, Robben to the penalty spot to try and possibly put his former side away. Instead, Cech made a diving stop to his left that kept things knotted up at one. While the Dutchman's spot-kick was not one of his best, the stop was monstrous for Chelsea. For a game that lacked much excitement, the previous fifteen minutes were simply mesmerizing.
Neither side could amount much of an attack over the final twenty-five minutes, which meant this one would be going to penalties to produce a winner. Whatever the outcome, history would be made. Either Chelsea would be taking home their club's first ever Champions League title or Bayern would become the first side to lift the trophy on their home pitch.
Defender Philipp Lahm was up first for Munich and found the back of the net, despite a monumental effort from Cech. The goalkeeper got his hands on the strike but it was far to hot to handle. Mata was up first for Chelsea but his poor effort was easily stopped by Neuer, giving the Germans the early advantage..
Both Mario Gomez and David Luiz found the back of the net with their kicks, which brought the German keeper to the penalty spot to face his counterpart. Neuer promptly stepped up and beat the Chelsea goalkeeper with a perfectly placed shot. Frank Lampard followed and calmly unleashed a rocket to the top of the net, to keep the Blues within striking distance.
Ivica Olic, who replaced an injured Ribery, would be next for Bayern but his poorly placed attempt was easily turned aside by Cech, to give Chelsea a ray of hope. Arguably the best player on the pitch was next, as Cole looked to get his side back on level terms. Not surprisingly, his strike was picture perfect and hit the side netting...leaving Neuer no hope of making the stop, despite his rather large wingspan.
Even at three a piece through eight shooters, it would come down to the final two. Bastian Schweinsteiger did his best imitation of Brazilian legend Socrates and froze Cech just enough, to sneak a shot just out of the diving keeper's reach but found only iron for his efforts. It was a cruel turn of events for the Germans. Moments earlier they seemed to be in complete control but now their fate sat on the laces of Didier Drogba.
In typical Drogba fashion, the Ivory Coast captain and all time leading scorer, stepped to the spot and calmly put the ball in the back the net. What must have been utter heartbreak for Bayern Munich, was matched by sheer ecstasy for Roberto Di Matteo's men in blue.
While Di Matteo may still have the "interim" tag attached to his title, he has has managed to salvage what was a disastrous campaign in the Premiership for Chelsea. The Blues finished a disappointing sixth in the table but that matters little to the Stamford Bridge faithful, who have just witnessed their side lift both the FA Cup and Champions League trophies in the last two weeks.
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