Champions League. This is one tournament where Chelsea’s luck has always run dry. When Roman Abramovich took over the club in 2003, he promised the fans that he will make Chelsea taste European success sooner than later. But it was not until 2012, that Chelsea could finally achieve it. It’s not that they had fared badly earlier; in fact they came close to winning it on several occasions, the closest being in 2008 when a John Terry slip in the final penalty shootout handed Manchester United the trophy. Probably one of the greatest heartbreaks in the club’s history.
Next year luck was again not on their side. Chelsea were on course to making their second final in two years. Following a 0-0 draw at the Camp Nou, Chelsea were beating Barcelona 1-0 at the Bridge. In a hugely controversial game where Chelsea had numerous penalty decisions turned down Barcelona managed to score an equaliser in the 94th minute, leaving the Chelsea fans shattered. Many hearts were broken that day. Didier Drogba’s controversial words sums it up: “a f*cking disgrace”.
Chelsea made the finals again in 2012. The road was not easy, but this was their year. Luck, which had always eluded them, was something they had in plenty this time around. Having almost being knocked out by Napoli after losing 3-1 at Naples, they came back strong to win 4-1 at Stamford Bridge thus progressing 5-4 on aggregate. After having defeated Benfica in the quarter finals, it was the defending champions Barcelona once again awaiting the Blues in the semi finals.
Playing with champion’s luck on their side, Chelsea went on to win 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, a Didier Drogba strike making the difference at the end. Having come to Camp Nou with a slender lead to defend, Chelsea were 2-0 down and reduced to 10 men with captain John Terry shown marching orders for a rather callous foul. They soon lost their other centre back Gary Cahill to injury.The tide of pressure and opportunities, already ferocious, looked set to overwhelm Roberto Di Matteo’s team. The heroics of Petr Cech saved them further embarrassment. Chelsea defended with determination throwing bodies in front of the ball as Barcelona upped the pressure.
It takes special stuff to be trailing 2-0, down to ten men and still conjure up a response. It was Chelsea’s most loved boy Frank Lampard, dispossessing none other than the great Lionel Messi, who found some space and clipped a perfect pass to Ramires. It was a dream of a finish from the Brazilian, deftly lobbing the ball over the advancing Victor Valdes into the back of the net. Any expectation that the wind might be taken from Barcelona’s sails was dispelled almost immediately after the restart. Shots came raining down at Cech, with his heroics or the crossbar keeping Barcelona from wrecking further damage. The night belonged to Chelsea though, as Messi slammed his penalty against the crossbar. Chelsea’s progress to the finals were further confirmed by substitute Fernando Torres. Latching onto a loose ball in the dying moments he ran half the length of the field and after rounding off a hapless Valdes,made it 2-2. Disbelief in the eyes of a packed Camp Nou arena as Chelsea made their way to Munich. Revenge of 2009 taken!
All odds were stacked against the Londoners as they were set to face Bayern Munich in the final, that too in the home of the German giants, Allianz Arena. Missing key players Ivanovic, Meireles, Ramires and captain John Terry, Chelsea made a surprise decision of starting with youngster Ryan Bertrand on the left to thwart the advances of former Blues man Arjen Robben. Their game was built on resilience, discipline, defensive organisation and Chelsea managed to keep their nerve at crucial times. Chelsea’s blanket of defensive defiance served them well as they almost spent the first half in their own territory. While the west London team were organised and resolute, they were also grateful that Bayern striker Gomez’s touch in front of goal deserted him at decisive moments. The crossbar and Cech’s heroics came to Chelsea’s rescue as balls came flying in at their goal. Frustration grew among the Bayern crowd as their team failed to convert the chances. There was a rare moment of anxiety for Neuer when he could only half-clear Cole’s cross but Drogba’s shot lacked the power.
Mueller decided to make amends for his previous missed chances. With seven minutes to play he headed in from Toni Kroos’s cross giving the Germans a 1-0 lead. But the story wasn’t supposed to end there. The man, whom Chelsea fans like to call King Didier, rose to the occasion and above all the Bayern defenders to head past Manuel Neuer from a curling Juan Mata corner for the equaliser, just 2 minutes from time. Stunned silence around the Allianz Arena, the men in red could not believe their eyes. The Chelsea number 11’s bullet header turned out to be too good for the German international goalkeeper. But soon Drogba went from hero to villain in the opening moments of the extra time when he conceded a penalty after he clipped Ribery from behind. But what can you do when luck, which always eluded the Blues in this tournament, was with them? Robben’s low spot kick was saved by the Czech Republic goalkeeper who ,otherwise, had a busy day under the bar. Bayern though, had been over-generous in front of goal and were architects of their own frustration. The match rolled into the shootouts. Would it be a repeat of 2008 and the blue hearts would be shattered again or would the Champions League trophy finally travel to Stamford Bridge?
Juan Mata stepped up to take Chelsea’s first penalty but the Spaniard’s effort was saved by Neuer. Ghost of 2008 looming? But David Luiz, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole were all successful in getting past the German number one. Philipp Lahm, Mario Gomez and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer were all on target for Bayern as well. The momentum shifted decisively when Cech denied Ivica Olic and Bastian Schweinsteiger hit the post to leave Chelsea on the brink and present Drogba with his moment of destiny. King Didier stepped up to take the penalty. The 34 year old Ivorian was calmness personified as he slowly walked up and calmly placed the ball on the spot. Sending Neuer the wrong way, he coolly rolled the ball into the back of the net handing Chelsea the greatest glory in the history of the club.
The Blue contingent at the Allianz Arena roared, as the elated Chelsea players and staff ran around the pitch, but the man of the moment was Didier Drogba, running around the pitch with his shirt above his head. Who cares if his future at Stamford Bridge was still uncertain! It’s the night every Chelsea player, staff and fan will remember for the rest of their lives. Suspended captain John Terry lifted the trophy along with Frank Lampard, the captain of the match and Roberto Di Matteo, who accomplished what no other Chelsea manager could do. Smiles were on the face of Roman Abramovich who finally got what he craved for after so many painful years. He has kept his promise, he has made Chelsea see European glory! 19th May 2012 was indeed a special day for the Blues