Chelsea-Manchester United: Heartbreak in Moscow after Champions League Final
As the rain poured down on Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, John Terry approached the penalty spot with a simple task: score the goal and win the game.
Terry, the Chelsea and ex-England skipper, knew that his potential goal would clinch his team their first-ever Champions League Trophy. Thanks to a earlier save, by Petr Cech on Cristiano Ronaldo, the stage was set for the one they called "Mr. Chelsea" to bury the ball.
Who better in this moment than Terry? The man who has spent his entire career with the club. The man who had been there in all the disappointing finishes in the past. How could the face of the Chelsea Football Club not come through?
As he stepped up to deliver, he slipped on the grass, resulting in his shot hitting the post. As he sat on the pitch he knew whatever momentum his club had quickly vanished. Anderson was next, as he beat Cech and gave United the 5-4 lead before Kalou evened things up for the Blues.
Ryan Giggs added another to put United back in the driver's seat, and all Chelsea's hope relied on Nicolas Anelka. The $30 million winter transfer gave a poor effort, allowing keeper Edwin van der Saar to make his only save and giving United their third Champions League Trophy.
Things might have been different for the West Londoners had striker Didier Drogba not lost his cool in an altercation with defender Nemanja Vidić, resulting in a red card that prevented the Ivorian from participating in the eventual penalty kicks. Drogba's situation was a familiar sight for football fans who remember the 2006 World Cup Final when Zinedine Zidane of France recieved a costly red card in the closing moments of extra time and was unavailable for penalties which his side lost to Italy
Blame could also be placed on head coach Avram Grant, who left Andriy Shevchenko on the bench in favor of Juliano Belletti, Salomon Kalou, and Anelka. Perhaps the most seasoned player, with European experience and third all-time scorer, Shevchenko had been part of penalties in the final on more than one occasion.
In 2002/03 he scored the decisive penalty for A.C. Milan to help them lift their sixth European trophy. Just two years later, he found himself the goat as he failed to score past Liverpool’s Jerzy Dudek, allowing Liverpool to clinch their title.
Regardless of his success or failure, Grant's decision to neglect the services of a one-time European Footballer of the Year in Shevchenko could come back to haunt him.
The match itself started out rather slow, as very little attack outside of the midfield occurred. That all changed in the 26th minute when Ronaldo headed home a perfect aerial pass into the Chelsea goal as a motionless Cech watched on. The goal gave United a 1-0 lead.
United continued to push on for a second resulting in a fanatic one-handed save by Cech on a Michael Carrick follow-up. Just seconds before the halftime interval, a shot by Michael Essien deflected off both Vidic and Rio Ferdinand to Frank Lampard, who tucked the ball in tying the game at 1-1.
The second half saw many of the offensive chances go in favor of Chelsea, as they hit the woodwork twice and failed to equalize on free kicks. The game was theirs for the taking, but no one could find a way to score.
As extra time began, the pitch and player conditions worsened. Thanks to the rain, players found themselves slipping and sliding as well as cramping up. The teams pushed on for a extra time lead, but were stopped by the opposing keepers.
With four minutes to go until the penalty kicks, Carlos Tevez reacted to a having to give the ball up for a Chelsea cramp, resulting in pushing and shoving amongst a large amount of both teams players. The incident ended with Drogba being sent off, becoming just the second player of alltime to be sent off in a final.
As the penalties got underway, the score was level at 2-2 when Ronaldo stepped up to try to give United the lead. The Football Player of the Year hesitated in shooting, allowing Cech to stop the shot and give Chelsea the advantage.
As we know, Terry failed to clinch it, and Anelka failed to keep the penalties going. Manchester United, having won the Premiership Trophy weeks earlier, clinched the double. As the Moscow sky rained down on the celebrations, John Terry's eyes rained of tears as he headed off the Luzhniki pitch, in what could be his only shot at the coveted Champions League Trophy.
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