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Home » Sport » Football

Chelsea Crowned European Champions

Not many trophies have eluded Chelsea since Roman Abramovich’s takeover in 2003, but even with the Russian oligarch’s excessive financial backing the Champions League had appeared to be an unassailable obstacle. This seemed especially the case following Chelsea’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of Napoli in the first leg of their last 16 tie back in February. Andre Villas Boas’ subsequent replacement by his assistant manager Roberto Di Matteo has seen a dramatic reversal of fortunes for the West London club though, as the man who in 2011 was sacked by West Bromwich Albion and turned down by Birmingham City has miraculously guided Chelsea to the summit of European football.

Chelsea have endured plenty of heartbreak in their quest to claim Europe’s elite title, exiting the tournament to Liverpool in the 2005 semi finals after a highly dubious Luis Garcia winner. Their European agony was then prolonged following a dramatic penalty shoot-out defeat to Manchester United in the 2008 final, before 2009’s last gasp semi final elimination by Barcelona. There was an element of destiny however as Chelsea exorcised the demons of Moscow courtesy of a 4-3 penalty shoot-out win over Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.

Bayern, contesting the final in their spectacular home stadium, were the more ambitious team throughout the game and dominated the first half territorially. Crucially, the Bavarians failed to convert their ascendancy into a goal as Chelsea exhibited the same resolute defending that helped them prevail over Barcelona in the semi finals. Mario Gomez squandered numerous clear cut opportunities whilst Petr Cech made a crucial save from a close range Arjen Robben shot.

The second period mirrored the first 45 minutes, with Chelsea hoping to capitalise on the break as Bayern became encamped inside their half. Franck Ribery had a goal ruled out for offside before Didier Drogba, who doggedly fed on scraps all evening, forced a rare save from Manuel Neuer. Thomas Mueller then shot wide from inside the area as the game looked to be getting away from Bayern.

On 83 minutes the deadline was finally broken, as Mueller made amends for his earlier miss by guiding a Toni Kroos cross beyond Cech to give Bayern the lead. As the Munich end began to celebrate a possible fifth European Cup win Jupp Heynckes decided to withdraw Mueller from the action in favour of Daniel Van Buyten, with the intention of seeing their lead through the game’s dying embers.

The change proved futile however as Drogba powered Chelsea’s first corner kick of the game past Neuer with two minutes left on the clock, leaving Bayern demoralised with extra-time still to play. There was another chance for Bayern to affirm control of the game as Drogba tripped Ribery inside the area, Robben’s penalty was weak as Cech guessed right to easily keep the scores level. Bayern continued to look disjointed without Mueller and Ribery (who was substituted through injury following the penalty incident) and lacked the attacking fluidity that they had shown during the 90 minutes of normal time. Conversely, Fernando Torres’ introduction to the game finally gave Drogba some assistance in the final third as Chelsea looked the likelier to steal the game late on but there was to be no late winner as the game went to penalties.

Bayern, once again were handed the initiative after Neuer saved from Juan Mata but Cech’s saves from Ivica Olic and Bastian Schweinsteiger meant that Didier Drogba’s penalty, fired into the bottom corner, crowned Chelsea as the champions of Europe for the first time in the club’s history.

Wild scenes inevitably followed as the Chelsea old guard of Frank Lampard, John Terry, Petr Cech and Dider Drogba were particularly overcome with emotion. On the contrary Roman Ambramovich looked understatedly pleased as Di Matteo, not Jose Mourinho, Felipe Scolari or Carlo Ancelotti, delivered the prize that the Russian has sought after since his takeover. The pluckiness of Chelsea’s victory, paired with their F.A. Cup triumph, exhibits the team spirit that Di Matteo has re-installed within the Chelsea ranks and surely must put the former Italian International in good stead to land the role permanently. Additionally, Chelsea’s win amends what was potentially about to become a supremely disappointing season for English teams in Europe, with their reward a place in next season’s group stage over Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham Hotspur, an outcome that will have a major influence over transfer activity in London over the summer months.

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