Chelsea prevail on penalties

Yakum Fitz-Henley

Tuesday, May 22, 2012    

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THE world all but stood still for two hours this weekend as football fans everywhere sat down to watch Bayern Munich versus Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League Final at Munich's Allianz Arena.

Chelsea went into this final on a high after beating Liverpool to win the FA Cup in their amazing late season recovery under Roberto Di Matteo. It was the opposite for Munich, however, who came in hoping to be buoyed by playing in front of their home fans after a thrashing in the German Cup to Borussia Dortmund.

With suspensions affecting both sides, and Didier Drogba playing what could have been his final match for the Chelsea FC, the stage was set for a momentous end to club football for the season.

It was Munich who went on the front foot with the selection of Thomas Muller as Toni Kroos dropped slightly deeper and this seemed to have paid off as Bayern dominated the opening stages, smothering Chelsea attacks and showing interplay and smart off-the-ball running in offense.

However, Mario Gomez proved a first-half villain, squandering numerous chances where it seemed easier to score rather than miss. Just before half-time, Gomez was able to get around Chelsea centre back Gary Cahill and had a great chance in front of goal in the penalty area, but he somehow managed to sky the ball into the stands.

This characterised a first-half filled with possession and spurned chances for Bayern against resolute Chelsea defending.

The second-half began with a bit more open play, with Chelsea venturing forward more readily.

However, it was again Munich who seemed more likely to score, forcing the tempo and getting into better attack situations. The Bavarians, portrayed as the "home side" even thought they had opened the scoring in the 54th minute as winger Franck Ribery smashed the ball into the net after Arjen Robben's shot fell into his path after deflecting off Ashley Cole.

Ribery was inches offside, however. Ashley Cole was Chelsea's standout defender throughout the match with phenomenal play and coming up with a few last-ditch blocks to keep Chelsea alive.

The deadlock was finally broken in the 83rd minute as Thomas Muller capitalised on a rare mistake from Cole who got drawn towards the ball as it came in from the left, heading the ball past Cech. Robben had the chance to put the game to bed moments later, but fluffed his shot, allowing Cech to make the save. Chelsea were nevertheless still down and up stepped Didier Drogba once again, giving Chelsea a lifeline in the 88th minute with a header rocketed past Manuel Neuer.

The game would go to extra time and eventually penalties after Robben again fluffed a perfect opportunity to win the game for Munich after Drogba brought down Ribery in the penalty area.

Robben shot an unimpressive effort low to Cech's left and was denied by the outstretched arm of the Chelsea goalkeeper. However, it was the German stopper who seemed to be on his way to being the hero after saving the first Chelsea penalty from Juan Mata and scoring one of his own.

Munich, however, squandered their lead, leaving Drogba with the chance to win it for the Blues at 3-3 in the penalty shoot-out. The big Ivorian made no mistake, condemning Tottenham to the Europa League, and sending Chelsea hearts into frenzy.



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