Sunday, May 20, 2012

Drogba Seals Win for Chelsea in Champions League Final

Washington Post:
MUNICH — Didier Drogba tied the match with a header in the 88th minute, and then scored the decisive goal in the shootout as Chelsea beat Bayern Munich to win the Champions League final, 4-3 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw Saturday.

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.

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.

Drogba sent goalkeeper Manuel Neuer the wrong way on the final kick of the shootout in front of massed Bayern fans in their home Allianz Arena. Bayern’s Bastian Schweinsteiger missed the previous penalty, hitting the goalpost.

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

The shootout was needed after Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech saved Arjen Robben’s spot-kick early in extra time.

Chelsea’s first Champions League title came four years after losing in a shootout 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 its elite status and finances.

Everything seemed stacked against Chelsea when Bayern won the toss to send the shootout to the home, south end of its 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.”

With seven starters from the two teams suspended, Bayern settled quickly against a visiting team set up to absorb pressure. The Germans’ tempo was often dictated by Schweinsteiger, who excelled after collecting a needless yellow card in the second minute for handball.

Toni Kroos, Mario Gomez and Robben all failed to find the target. Robben, the former Chelsea winger, threatened in the 21st when he wriggled through a tiny gap to create a left-footed shooting chance. Gomez, with 13 goals in the competition this season, wasted two good chances to draw level with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

After 83 minutes of Bayern domination, Thomas Mueller broke dogged Chelsea resistance with a header past the outstanding Cech.

Bayern had 35 shots to Chelsea’s nine, and 20 corners to just one, which Chelsea used to great effect. They underestimated Chelsea’s admirable resolve, and Drogba soared to score with a header that Neuer couldn’t keep out.


Lineups:
Bayern Munich: Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, Jerome Boateng, Diego Contento, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos, Arjen Robben, Thomas Mueller (Daniel van Buyten, 87), Franck Ribery (Ivica Olic, 97), Mario Gomez.

Chelsea: Petr Cech, Jose Bosingwa, David Luiz, Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole, John Obi Mikel, Frank Lampard, Salomon Kalou (Fernando Torres, 84), Juan Mata, Ryan Bertrand (Florent Malouda, 73), Didier Drogba.

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