Drogba drives Chelsea to European glory

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Didier Drogba was the match-winner once more as Chelsea overcame the odds to defeat Bayern Munich on penalties and win the Champions League.

The Ivorian struck with three minutes remaining to cancel out Thomas Mueller’s opener and Arjen Robben missed an extra-time penalty before Drogba scored the decisive kick in the shoot-out.

It was another example of incredible resilience by Roberto di Matteo’s side, as they were second best throughout the tie but somehow managed to find the reserves to drag the game to the lottery of penalty kicks.

The Allianz Arena was heaving as both sets of fans attempted to drown one another out with their chants, meanwhile Bayern legend Paul Breitner was given the honour of carrying the trophy out to place it on its pre-game pedestal.

It was a nice touch to the build up, but the first half rarely managed to match the crowd for energy and excitement with Bayern dominating possession and Chelsea content to subdue the Germans’ considerable attacking threat.

Bastian Schweinsteiger did himself no favours for the remainder of the game when he received a yellow card after just two minutes for deliberate handball on the edge of the opposition area; it was unnecessary and silly.

The Bavarians were having all of the play but Chelsea’s defending was resolute and Gary Cahill made a good block from a Schweinsteiger shot before Toni Kroos blazed wide from 20 yards after a quarter of an hour.

Arjen Robben thought he had unlocked his former club’s rear guard in the 23rd minute when a quick interchange with Franck Ribery worked some space in the Chelsea area, but his close-range shot was deflected onto the post by the foot of Petr Cech.

Chelsea had a rare sniff of goal ten minutes later when Cahill’s forage forward drew a foul from Jerome Boateng on the edge of the area, but Juan Mata’s attempt was always rising.

Bayern missed another good chance moments later when a cross from Diego Contento, the left-back replacing suspended David Alaba, was met on the volley by Thomas Mueller 12 yards out.

The Germany internation was running onto it at speed though and could do nothing but drill it wide when he should have hit the target.

Chelsea replied with their best move of the game when a nice flick from the isolated Drogba created space for Lampard to find Salomon Kalou, only for his shot to be stopped easily by Manuel Neuer at the near post.

Gomez missed two fantastic chances in the ten minutes before half time; one was a mis-control after Robben pulled back from the byline. The second was after a good turn in the box past Cahill, but his shot was skied.

It was much the same at the start of the second half but Drogba almost surprised Neuer when he chested and volleyed form 35-yards out – it would have brought a smile to the faces of Chelsea fans, but more than a touch ambitious.

As the second half wore on Bayern’s dominance grew, though Drogba was finding a little more space and almost capitalised on a Anatoliy Tymoschuk slip, but his low cross was cleared.

The Bavarians thought their pressure had paid off after nearly an hour when a Muller cross found Robben and his shot ricocheted off the impressive Ashley Cole for Ribery to slam home.

Chelsea blushes were spared by the sight of the assistant referee’s flag raised for offside – the correct decision.

Cole was in attendance again to make another of numerous blocks on the night, this time to deny Robben in the 63rd minute.

The chances came and went, with Ribery, Robben and Mueller all guilty of wasting good opportunities to break the deadlock, but the Blues’ luck ran out in the 83rd minute.

Kroos floated a cross to the back post and Mueller rose above Cole to header down into the ground and up into the roof of the net to give Munich a deserved lead.

Chelsea had done little to trouble the Bayern goal for almost the entire match but Fernando Torres was introduced for Kalou after the goal and immediately won a corner.

In the 88th minute the game turned once more and who else but Drogba? The Ivory Coast international rose highest, despite a push in the back for good measure, and guided a header high inside the near post.

It was an incredible piece of drama and another example of how Chelsea manage to defy all the odds and capitalise on the slightest sniff of a chance in a game they should have already been well out of.

There was an ominous feeling going into extra-time and Chelsea had all the momentum, pressing the Bayern goal, but a flamboyant Torres fall could not convince referee Pedro Proenca to give a penalty.

However, the man from Portugal did deem Drogba’s clip on Ribery to be a foul and pointed to the spot in the third minute.

There may have been questions about Peter Cech for the Bayern goal, but he redeemed himself when diving low to his left and smothering Robben’s blasted penalty.

It was another dramatic twist in a game that had developed into a pulsating contest and was opening up more as legs tired.

Ribery was forced off after Drogba’s challenge, surprising considering the innocuous nature of it, and was replaced by hard running Croatia international Ivica Olic – the last type of player you want to see when you are an exhausted Blues defender.

Olic almost provided the decisive moment in the 108th minute when he snuck in at the back post to lay a Kroos cross back across goal, but sub Daniel van Buyten had stopped his run when he would have been able to tap into an empty net.

Three minutes later Cahill was on hand to sail in front of Gomez when Philip Lahm had got to the byline and pulled-back – it was a heroic block, but he paid for it with a bout of cramp.

It proved effective however, as the game fizzled out and brought on dreaded penalty kicks.

Juan Mata set the tone with his poor kick to give a straightforward save to Neuer and the Germany number one slotted home his own kick in the corner past Cech.

The Czech Republic international got his side back in it when he saved impressively from extra-time substitute Ivica Olic and the turnaround was complete when Schweinsteiger hit the post following Cole scoring.

The man who has epitomised Chelsea’s resilience in the past few months more than anyone else is Didier Drogba and, of course, he stepped up to slide home the winning penalty to make them the first side from London to lift the famous trophy.

Suspended John Terry changed from his suit to kit in anticipation of being in front of the cameras as he lifted the cup, but he must have known, like everyone else, that the man who made it all possible was Didier.

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Didier Drogba
UEFA Champions League

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