Chelsea become champions of Europe

Chelsea become champions of Europe

Chelsea won the Champions League final with a gripping 4-3 win over Bayern Munich on penalties after a 1-1 draw at the Allianz Arena.

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  • Agencies
  • Last Updated: May 20, 2012, 3:12 AM IST
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Munich: Chelsea won the 2011-12 Champions League with a gripping 4-3 win over Bayern Munich on penalties after a 1-1 draw at the Allianz Arena on Saturday.

Bayern set up camp in the Chelsea half for the majority of the match, but were extremely wasteful in front of goal, passing up a number of opportunities that allowed Roberto Di Matteo's men to stay in the contest.

Thomas Muller looked to have finally broken their resistance when he scored in the 83rd minute, but Didier Drogba brought the Blues back from the dead with a powerful header two minutes from time to send the final into extra-time.

Arjen Robben saw a soft penalty saved by Petr Cech in the 95th minute, but there was no winner in the additional 30 minutes as the match moved into a penalty shoot-out.

Drogba struck the winning attempt from the spot to hand the Londoners to their first ever Champions League crown, and finally put the demons of their 2008 failure in Moscow to rest.

Both sides were forced to reshuffle their XI’s due to suspensions, but the biggest surprise came from Di Matteo, who unexpectedly began with 22-year-old leftback Ryan Bertrand in midfield for his first ever Champions League appearance.

The changes seemed to affect Chelsea more than Bayern, with the German side looking far more comfortable during a commanding, but profligate first-half showing against a visiting team set up to absorb pressure.

The Germans' tempo was often dictated by Bastian Schweinsteiger, who excelled after collecting a needless yellow card in the second minute for handball. Schweinsteiger was denied by a block from Gary Cahill, just before Toni Kroos flashed wide from 18 yards out, all in the first five minutes.

Chelsea were nowhere to be seen in the attacking third, and remained penned back in their own half as Bayern just kept coming. Mario Gomez nodded a Franck Ribery cross just over, and Petr Cech did just enough with his right leg to tip a tricky Robben effort onto the woodwork.

It took Chelsea 34 minutes to register their first sight on goal after a clumsy challenge by Jerome Boateng on Cahill on the edge of the area, but Juan Mata sent the set-piece clean over the bar.

That sparked a flurry of chances, with Salomon Kalou testing Manuel Neuer at his near post just after Ribery and Muller both missed from good positions.

The Bayern pair embarrassed themselves with poor control attacking a loose ball in close, but Gomez, with 12 goals in the competition this season, was guilty of an even greater gaffe two minutes before half-time, blasting miles over after twisting away from Cahill deep inside the box.

Drogba almost surprised Neuer with an outlandish strike from all of 40 yards shortly after the restart, but the chance proved to be something of an aberration as Bayern continued to threaten. Kroos and Robben were both denied by fantastic last-ditch challenges from David Luiz and Ashley Cole, before Ribery saw a goal correctly disallowed for offside. Cole repeated his heroics five minutes later, dashing across to block Robben's shot from 15 yards. In the 76th, Cech stretched to tip the ball over the bar as Ribery's cross at the goal-line squirted up from Cole's lunging challenge.

Cole was then booked for fouling Mueller, who responded by directing a header which Cech gathered.

With 15 minutes to go, Diego Contento was forced to mirror the efforts of the Chelsea rearguard, sliding in to intercept a dangerous Drogba centre from the left. But Bayern were their own worst enemy, and when Muller spurned a pair of chances with 10 minutes remaining, it looked like their profligacy would finally tell.

However, Muller would come good in the 83rd minute, arriving at the back post to nod in a teasing cross from Toni Kroos to finally send Bayern into the lead and spark delirious celebrations among their players and fans.

It looked like the end of the road for Chelsea, but incredibly, they found themselves level with two minutes to go, as Mata’s corner was met emphatically by the head of Drogba to send the tie into an additional 30 minutes.

The Ivorian almost went from hero to villain four minutes into extra-time, as he tripped up Ribery in the area to give Bayern a penalty. Robben steadied himself from 12 yards, but saw his weak spot-kick smothered by Cech, echoing his costly miss recently against Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. Robben fired low to Cech's left, and the Czech 'keeper blocked with his arm and body, then reached across to collect the loose ball.

Substitute Daniel Van Buyten came within inches of turning in a cross from another substitute Ivica Olic but he failed to anticipate a simple tap-in, before Bayern were blocked for the umpteenth time, Cahill throwing himself in front of Gomez from in close.

But no winner was forthcoming, meaning that penalties were required to determine the destiny of the trophy.

In the shoot-out, Didier Drogba struck the winner from 12 yards out, after Cech saved from Olic and Schweinsteiger to send the 2011-12 Champions League trophy to Stamford Bridge. Drogba sent goalkeeper Manuel Neuer the wrong way on the final kick in front of massed Bayern fans.

Chelsea's first Champions League title came four years after losing in a shoot-out to Manchester United. Drogba succeeded where his captain John Terry, who was suspended for Saturday's finale, failed in missing the fifth penalty in Moscow four years ago, which would have given the club's Russian owner Roman Abramavich the Champions League title he has craved.

Abramovich must now make a fascinating decision on the future of interim coach Roberto di Matteo, who took over from the fired Andre Villas-Boas after a last-16, first-leg defeat to Napoli, and inspired a team which then appeared sulky and fading.

Victory also sealed Chelsea's last remaining route into next season's competition, which is crucial to their elite status and finances.

Everything seemed stacked against Chelsea when Bayern won the toss to send the shoot-out to the home, south end of their stadium. After Bayern captain Philipp Lahm scored first, Juan Mata has his kick saved by Neuer. Cech then saved Ivica Olic's fourth penalty for Bayern to put the otherwise excellent Schweinsteiger in the spotlight. He struck the post to Cech's left and covered his face with his shirt.

Drogba stepped up and sealed victory and awaited the adulation of his onrushing teammates.

"He's a hero. Without him we're not here," said Lampard, who scored with Chelsea's third penalty. "I'd love him to stay. What he did tonight, he's been doing all his career."

The unlikely storyline of an English team beating a German team on penalties in a high-profile match provided a fitting end to a dramatic night, as Chelsea became Europe's champion club for the first time. And the often theatrical 34-year-old Drogba, playing possibly his last game for the club as his Chelsea contract expires next month, was at the heart of the show.

"It was written, I think, a long time ago," Drogba said to British broadcaster ITV of Chelsea's turnaround since their turmoil in March. "This team is amazing. They never give up until the end."
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