Anyone who knows their history will be aware that Munich is linked with some of the most significant, and chilling, moments of the past. While the importance of these events – the Putsch, Neville Chamberlain, the 1958 air crash and the death of Israeli athletes in 1972 – will always be greater than a mere sporting fixture, Chelsea fans will always remember May 19 2012 as a landmark occasion.
In modern day sporting terms, Chelsea’s victory in the Champions League was one of the monumental football achievements of recent times. Underdogs, playing the stadium of their opponents, a ridiculous UEFA folly, and shorn of some of their most influential players, Chelsea pulled off a major shock. If their semi-final success against Barcelona was “Sensation in the Nou Camp”, then this was the sequel – “The miracle of Munich”.
In the pre-match TV coverage, one pundit said, “If the blue angel is sitting on the crossbar, then Chelsea will win”. For 83 minutes, Bayern could not break down stubborn Chelsea resistence. Chelsea were reluctant to come out of their shell, but their defenders, notably Ashley Cole and David Luiz, turned in outstanding performances. If there was criticism it was that Chelsea were too cautious, but you always got the feeling they knew what they were doing.
Peter Cech’s goal led a charmed life and if Mario Gomez – a 40-goal striker in 2011-12 – had shown more finesse, Chelsea would have been buried. When Bayern did score, on 83 minutes – a Thomas Mueller far post downward header that went in off Cech’s crossbar – it looked like the end. But incredibly, and perhaps predictably in this unlikely story, Didier Drogba powered home a near post header from Chelsea’s first corner of the game on 88 minutes.
In extra time, as in Barcelona, Drogba threatened to spoil the day when he tripped Franck Ribery in the area. Arjen Robben sent in a hard, low penalty that Cech smothered and even Bayern started to believe that blue angel was indeed, perched on the woodwork.
By this time, Bayern’s frustration was evident and for the rest of the game, Chelsea seemed to exude confidence as penalties loomed. Even then, it looked as though Roberto Di Matteo’s men had blown it. Juan Mata missed the first penalty, giving the German team the advantage – a familiar tale in shoot-outs.
It was 3-2 to Bayern when Ivica Olic missed their fourth kick. Cole levelled for Chelsea and then Bastian Schweinsteiger struck the post with Bayern’s final kick. It was left to Drogba to win the game with a calmly-stroked penalty – and then the celebrations started. Roman Abramovich even came out of the shadows in his best jeans!
How ironic that Drogba, the man who imploded in Moscow in 2008, and penalties, should decide the most exhausting of games. Chelsea’s name can be added to the greats of European football as well as the English game’s roll of honour. It is up to Mr Abramovich to ensure that Roberto Di Matteo’s name does not get added to the growing list of managers who have walked through the Stamford Bridge revolving door prematurely. There can be no better qualification on your CV than a Champions League win….