World Cup Russia 2018


How Chelsea won the Champions League

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Football News

So how did they do it?

Often the underdogs throughout the campaign, Chelsea travelled to the Allianz Arena with nothing more than a chance. That’s what the bookmakers and experts would have you believe.

But this is football, and we should know better. The Blues proved against Barcelona that over 90 minutes – or even 180 – the best team doesn’t always win.

And, once again, Roberto Di Matteo’s side did the job they needed to do. True, a little bit of luck went their way they needed it, notably in the first half when Petr Cech’s low save from an Arjen Robben strike bounced down and hit the frame of the goal, and when Franck Ribery's tap-in was correctly flagged for offside.

They say you make your own luck though, and it was no coincidence that the goalkeeper of the winning team on penalties went the right way for every single spot kick. Petr Cech guessed right in extra time, and got that little bit of fortune when Robben’s penalty squirmed under his body but stayed close enough to be gathered.

A stray beach ball almost intervened, but luckily for the fan who punched it towards the pitch, it didn’t quite reach the intended target.

And then, in the shootout, the Czech Republic international was close to every single strike from 12 yards, getting a hand on Phillip Lahm’s first strike before making an even greater mark on the fourth and fifth efforts from Ivica Olic and Bastian Sweinsteiger.

Getting to penalties was a minor victory in itself for Chelsea, who made more blocks than in any of their other Champions League matches this season. Whilst Barcelona struggled to break through the defensive wall, Bayern struggled to do it by shooting from distance.

The back line of Jose Bosingwa, Gary Cahill, David Luiz and Ashley Cole were happy to throw their bodies on the line at the 35 shots which came from the ‘hosts’, although wayward finishing from the Bavarians was also to blame, as they hit the target just eight times.

At the other end, Chelsea mustered just nine efforts on goal, hitting the target three times and scoring the vital goal on 88 minutes when Didier Drogba rose highest at the front post to power past Manuel Neuer.

Di Matteo knew before kick-off that he would be in for a tough time against Bayern, and showed his willingness to keep things tight with the inclusion of Ryan Bertrand in an advanced left position. The young Englishman was making his Champions League debut, and helped Ashley Cole keep a lid of Robben throughout his time on the pitch before Florent Malouda’s arrival.

Whilst Bertrand was solid if unspectacular, the performance of Jon Obi-Mikel can’t be under-estimated. Not always a fans favourite, the Nigerian produced the finest display of his career to control the centre of the pitch whenever he was in possession.

Bosingwa was also fantastic, keeping Ribery quiet for large periods before his match was ended in the penalty box in extra-time.

And then, of course, there is Drogba. The Ivorian was isolated for large periods of the match, and gave away that spot kick which could have cost the Blues so dear. It would have been his second final nightmare, after seeing red in the 2008 final against Manchester United for a slap on Nemanja Vidic.

But, like all big players, Drogba came alive when it mattered most. His header was exquisite, and coolness from the spot decisive as the European Cup comes to the capital of England.

Whether that is the 34-year-old’s last moment as a Chelsea player is up for debate, but contract talks are scheduled for later in the week as a resolution is sort over a new deal. Surely the Blues can’t just let their talisman walk away?

To focus on his situation is to distract from a great team effort, however. Mata didn’t enjoy his finest night on the ball, but covered 16,123 metres during the 120 minutes, showing a desire and work-rate for his team.

Frank Lampard, captain on the night, made 81 passes for his side, rarely giving the ball away and keeping hold of it when it mattered for the sixth best team in English football – according to the Premier League table, that is.

It would be easy to brand this victory as destiny. SkySports pundit and England coach Gary Neville said it was ‘written in the stars’ during his commentary of the game, suggesting no matter what happened, Chelsea were always going to win.

The belief gained from victories against Napoli, Benfica and Barcelona creates that kind of feeling though, and those victories, as well as this one, were all about effort and preparation.

Di Matteo and his backroom staff must take some of the credit for that, but in the end it’s the players who cross the white line, and won this game for their owner, their fans and themselves.

It was Bayern Munich’s to win, but Chelsea took it from them.

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