Chelsea and Didier Drogba's Shared Destiny Wins Champions League Against Bayern
They said Chelsea's run to the Champions League final was a Cinderella story.
Their penalty shootout victory against Bayern Munich, before a heavily partisan German crowd in their home Allianz Arena in Munich, stretched our disbelief still further.
Somehow, Chelsea are champions of Europe for the first time in their 107-year history.
How Bayern conspired to lose is hard to explain without touching on fate. The Germans dominated every facet of play in normal time, but their many thrusts were mostly without cuts.
And when they finally did break Chelsea's resistance—through Thomas Muller's powerful header late on—Bayern were stared down by Didier Drogba's destiny.
There were 88 minutes on the clock when Drogba propelled his considerable frame into motion six yards out. His header was so forceful, and so brutal in execution, that the ranks of Bayern fans surely felt it beat against their chests as it rippled the net.
Suddenly, it was 1999 again for them.
For the rest of us, the inevitable had arrived. The same Chelsea who fought back from 3-1 down against Napoli and survived a battering from Barca to prevail at Camp Nou, had come to the party.
Who says resistance is futile?
And the battle-hardened war horse they call Drogba, in what will likely be his last game for the Blues, would not be denied.
At least that's what we thought, until he tripped Franck Ribery in extra-time to gift Bayern a penalty. Finally, the most stubborn of dreams had died. The sporting gods can't play Chelsea forever.
But it turns out they wanted to.
Petr Cech guessed right and Arjen Robben's weak penalty became the latest example of German profligacy—albeit the fault of a Dutchman.
Bayern's chance to win the match in extra time was gone, and the four-time European champions went from dominant favorites to 50 percenters, in the lottery of a penalty shootout.
Once again, Chelsea let them in. Juan Mata's kick was saved by Manuel Neuer and Bayern had the ascendancy. Philipp Lahm, Mario Gomez and Neuer himself made no mistake, and the Chelsea hoards must surely have feared the worst.
Step forward Petr Cech, the skull-capped hero of Barcelona and many more places besides, to save from Ivica Olic.
And when Bastian Schweinsteiger hit a post, it was left all too poetically for Drogba to score the winning penalty and deliver Chelsea to the promised land.
In 2008, Drogba was sent off as Chelsea lost the Champions League final to Manchester United in Moscow, on penalties. Four years later, he swept the ball home to own the most resounding closure to that night imaginable.
For Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo, the triumph is surely the validation he requires to be offered the job full-time.
Since taking over from Andre Villas-Boas in early March, Di Matteo has now led Chelsea to FA Cup and Champions League glory. What's more, he's delivered the club's owner, Roman Ambramovich, with the prize he covets above all else—the giant Champions League trophy.
Meanwhile, Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes is left to reflect on a season in which his team finished runners-up in the Bundesliga, the German Cup and the Champions League. Second place is just not good enough when you're a club of Bayern's stature.
The Germans only have themselves to blame. Gomez should have scored at least twice, Robben missed a penalty. Somewhere inside them, there was fear in Munich—and Chelsea could sense it.
Perhaps playing in their home stadium added a pressure they didn't need? Perhaps the weight of 11 years without a European crown was too much to bear?
Chelsea fans won't care either way. This was their night, their achievement, and to undermine it is to underestimate the quite monumental resolve they've shown this season.
They knocked out Barcelona. They beat Bayern in their own back yard.
Chelsea are the champions of Europe and they emphatically deserve it.
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