Chelsea beat Bayern Munich and won the Champions League for the first time 10 years ago

It was a moment that hardly anyone in attendance or watching at home could believe they were witnessing.

Chelsea, the sixth best team in the Premier League, with Roberto Di Matteo as manager, came within a penalty kick of lifting the 2012 Champions League at the expense of Bayern Munich. In the Bavarians’ own backyard, no less.

And with a flick of the right foot from Didier Drogba, the Blues etched their name on the trophy with the big ears for the first time in their history.

Chelsea were crowned European champions on this day in 2012 (Image: PA)
Chelsea were crowned European champions on this day in 2012 (Image: PA)

The scene at the Allianz Arena on May 19, 2012 was the polar opposite of the images of Drogba seeing red in Moscow and John Terry crying on the Luzhniki Stadium pitch four years earlier, when Avram Grant’s team were denied their first European Cup for Manchester United.

For Chelsea to succeed with a team that was punished throughout the competition when it failed to get the job done during José Mourinho’s first era of dominance in 2005 and 2006 or with Lampard, Terry, Ashley Cole and Drogba at their collective best in 2008 is perhaps one of the great ironies of modern football.

Di Matteo had only been in charge at Stamford Bridge for two months when his side came up against Jupp Heynckes’ Bayern.

The Blues had endured a miserable domestic campaign under Andre Villas-Boas and seemed resigned to a similarly lukewarm European showing when they were handily beaten 3-1 by Napoli at the San Paolo in the first leg of their round of 16 tie. final with the whole of Serie A.

However, with Premier League priorities aside, Di Matteo focused on crushing Chelsea in the knockout rounds of the Champions League in a bid to secure one of the most unlikely continental triumphs in recent years.

A dramatic 4-1 extra-time victory over Napoli in the second leg set up a quarter-final clash with Benfica, who were beaten 3-1 on aggregate.

Then came Barcelona. To this day, no one is sure how Chelsea survived the onslaught of Messi and company, nor can they fathom what happened to Gary Neville’s voice when Fernando Torres burst into the Camp Nou, surrounded Víctor Valdés and sent Chelsea on their way. to Munich.

If Chelsea overcame Barcelona it was considered an unlikely success, what happened at the Allianz Arena a few weeks later was nothing short of a miracle.

Drogba scored a late equalizer to send the match into extra time (Picture: PA)
Drogba scored a late equalizer to send the match into extra time (Picture: PA)

Without suspended captain John Terry, Chelsea were already at a distinct disadvantage heading into their final battle with Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger.

But, play a team with such quality, which had fired Real Madrid in the semifinals, in their own backyard? When you’re starting out with José Bosingwa at right back and an unproven Ryan Bertrand in midfield? You could almost have forgiven Chelsea if they had walked into Bavaria waving a white flag.

And so the final unfolded in the same way as the two games against Barcelona. Bayern attacked, Chelsea survived. Barely.

Mario Gómez squandered a golden opportunity to open the scoring in the 18th minute before a combination of a Petr Cech shin and a vertical held Arjen Robben at bay.

The pressure continued, getting more relentless by the minute, with Muller firing a volley wide and Gomez rampaging through the crowd with only Cech to beat. Ribery had a goal disallowed for offside. Surely Chelsea’s resistance couldn’t last?

He then scored the winning penalty to secure Chelsea their first European Cup (Picture: PA)
He then scored the winning penalty to secure Chelsea their first European Cup (Picture: PA)

Somehow the scoreline managed to remain scoreless until the 83rd minute, when Muller bounced a header past Cech. That, apparently, was it. Chelsea’s energy reserves had to be empty after desperately trying to hold off the home team for nearly 90 minutes.

The Ivorian, in what was to be his last game for the club (until his return two years later) seemed to levitate in suspended animation before launching a header past a stunned Manuel Neuer.

To Bayern’s credit, when extra time came they resumed normal service and quickly pummeled Chelsea some more, but with the same result.

Drogba then almost instantly undid his heroism by bringing down Franck Ribery in the Chelsea box just three minutes after extra time. Referee Pedro Proença signaled for the penalty, but Petr Cech, in a harbinger of his later heroics, saved the Dutchman’s penalty, as Di Matteo’s men survived until the end of time.

Drogba lifts the Champions League trophy in Munich (Image: PA)
Drogba lifts the Champions League trophy in Munich (Image: PA)

Statistics would show that Heynckes’ side had recorded 26 goal attempts against Chelsea’s seven. But however resolutely the Blues had defended and how much they had pushed their luck, an English team against a German team was only going to have one result.

Only Cech and Drogba had not read the script.

Juan Mata would miss Chelsea’s first penalty, with Phillip Lahm, David Luiz, Mario Gomez, Frank Lampard and even Manuel Neuer successfully converting theirs until Cech repelled Ivica Olic.

Ashley Cole equalized Chelsea before Bastian Schweinsteiger intervened. It seemed a foregone conclusion that Bayern’s Deutscher Fußballmeister would clear the net with his effort.

Instead, Cech somehow deflected the future Germany captain’s shot off the post.

Once again, enter Drogba.

John Terry may have done his best to steal the headlines with his full-team display afterwards, but the night belonged to the Ivorian.

Just six months later, Chelsea’s defense of their newly won trophy would come to an end in the 2012/13 Champions League group stage and Roberto Di Matteo would be out of a job.

Still, we doubt any of his fans will care what happened after his glorious night in Munich.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.