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  • Bayern Munich v Chelsea, Champions League

Chelsea rule Europe after penalty drama

ESPN staff
May 19, 2012

Champions League final gallery
Plays of the Day: Heroes in blue

The European Cup is heading to Stamford Bridge for the first time in Chelsea's 107-year history after the Blues beat Bayern Munich 4-3 on penalties to win the 2012 Champions League final.

After 120 energy-sapping minutes ended with the scores level at 1-1, it came down to which side could hold their nerve from 12 yards. Juan Mata was first to see his tame kick saved by Manuel Neuer, but Petr Cech responded by denying Ivica Olic. Bastian Schweinsteiger then saw his effort touched onto a post by Cech, allowing Didier Drogba to net the most important penalty in Chelsea's history.

The Blues erased the agony of John Terry's heartbreaking penalty miss four years ago in Moscow, and simultaneously snatched England's final qualifying spot for next year's competition from Tottenham, as Roberto Di Matteo completed a remarkable turnaround in the club's fortunes since his arrival at the start of March.

Drogba's 88th-minute equaliser saw Chelsea deny Bayern in front of their own supporters, after Thomas Muller had netted what looked like the winner at the Allianz Arena seven minutes from time. It came down to the shootout, and where Chelsea failed against Manchester United in 2008 they this time held their nerve, with Cech the hero - having already saved a spot-kick from Arjen Robben in extra-time.

Suspended skipper Terry, who will feel as much relief as joy after his infamous miss in 2008, was joined by Ramires, Branislav Ivanovic and Raul Meireles on the sidelines, leaving Di Matteo to put his faith in a patched up back four. Gary Cahill and David Luiz both started their first games for a month, while 22-year-old Ryan Bertrand was handed a shock start on Chelsea's left flank.

It was the hosts, making use of their home advantage, who made the faster start in Munich, Robben and Franck Ribery seeing plenty of ball in the wide areas although no clear chances were carved out in the first 15 minutes. Chelsea's most concerning moment actually came from their own player, when Jose Bosingwa slashed at a clearance in front of his own goal, the ball spinning wide of Cech's right post.

Bayern's first self-created chance of note arrived soon after, and Chelsea were grateful to a combination of Cech and that same right upright as Robben's low drive from inside the area was narrowly diverted behind. The twin threat of Robben and Ribery was troubling Chelsea and a break from the Frenchman led to a dangerous volleyed effort from Muller that fell wide.

Chelsea only threatened in bursts, with Drogba isolated, but the Ivorian did manage to combine with Frank Lampard moments before half-time to set up a half-chance for Salomon Kalou, who saw his rasping drive clutched with both hands by the reliable Neuer.

The momentum and possession of the ball belonged to Bayern, though, and the best chance of the opening half arrived three minutes before the interval, only to be spurned by Mario Gomez. Receiving the ball from Robben with his back to goal, Gomez faked cleverly to off-balance Cahill on the edge of the area, but as he looked to slot the ball past an exposed Cech the German forward leant back and blazed wildly over.

Half-time offered respite to a Chelsea defence that had seen 16 shots aimed at their goal in the opening 45 minutes, but for all Bayern's fine approach work, their crossing from the flanks was poor. That continued into the second half as Robben was released down the right, but with men over in the centre the Dutchman hit the first defender.

Didier Drogba's header forced extra time and penalties © PA Photos
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A goal was coming and it appeared to have arrived in the 54th minute when Ribery swept the ball past Cech, only to see the flag raised for offside. Replays showed the assistant referee had made an excellent decision, with the Frenchman's left leg beyond the last defender as Robben fired the initial shot at goal.

If Chelsea's first-half tactics had been to absorb and counter, their second-half effort was a true backs-to-the-wall affair. A red tide kept pouring their way, but still Bayern could not improve their shots-on-target statistic as the clock ticked past 70 minutes. Ashley Cole - in particular - was immense for the Blues, who made more blocks in the final than any team managed in any other fixture in the competition.

By keeping a clean sheet Chelsea knew they only needed one chance to fall at the other end, but when a loose ball fell to Drogba his off-balance volley failed to trouble Neuer.

With seven minutes remaining Bayern finally found a breakthrough, and must have thought they had won it when Muller stole in at the back host to head home Schweinsteiger's cross.

Chelsea have been defying the odds all season though, and after posing minimal threat all evening they somehow found a dramatic 88th-minute equaliser. Drogba, who had worked hard but been isolated all night, met a near-post corner - Chelsea's first of the night - and thundered an emphatic header past Neuer for 1-1.

Extra-time arrived and within five minutes of the restart Drogba looked set to go from saviour to villain as his clumsy challenge felled Ribery in the area. Former Chelsea man Robben stepped up from 12 yards, but Cech guessed right as a gripping final took another twist.

It went to penalties, and Cech proved Chelsea's hero with two more penalty saves, as David Luiz, Lampard, Cole and Drogba all netted on a famous night for the men in blue.

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