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Drogba's Magic Helps Chelsea Win Champions League

Salomon Fuentes |
May 19, 2012 | 5:08 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Didier Drogba finally a champion (Courtesy Creative Commons)
Didier Drogba finally a champion (Courtesy Creative Commons)
With only one penalty kick separating Chelsea from its first UEFA Champions League title Saturday, there was no one more suited to take it than Didier Drogba.

Over the last eight years, several players and managers came and went at Stamford Bridge. But there has always been one constant: Drogba and his ability to come through when it mattered.

Facing Bayern Munich for the biggest prize in European club play, Drogba yet again rose to the occasion and kicked his way into Chelsea lore.

“They never give up until the end. This team is amazing,” Drogba told ITV after the match. "I want to dedicate this cup to all the managers we've had before, all the players I've played with before."

Drogba spoiled Bayern’s chance to win on their own home pitch with a goal in regulation to tie the game 1-1, and his final kick sealed a 4-3 victory on penalties.

Bayern appeared to have every advantage -- playing in front of thousands of their fans and the Blues were without, among others, their captain and defensive cog, John Terry.

The Bavarians struck first in the 83rd minute when Thomas Müller snuck past Chelsea’s defense and bounced a header off the ground and into the net just over the outstretched hands of keeper Peter Čech.

But Bayern players and fans at Allianz Stadium began their celebrations too soon, as five minutes later, it was Drogba who struck a header into the net off Chelsea’s first -- and ever timely -- corner kick of the evening to silence the crowd.

Bayern had numerous opportunities in extra-time that they could not convert into points. Drogba conceded a penalty kick in the 95th minute when he tripped Frank Ribéry from behind and knocked him out of the game.

Yet, the usually sure-fire Dutch midfielder Arjen Robben could not capitalize on the penalty as Čech correctly guessed the kick would go to his left and managed to knock the ball down.

In the 109th minute, Bayern had a wonderful chance when Ivica Olić had Čech beat. But he mistakenly believed teammate Daniel Van Buyten would finish. Instead, the ball ended up just missing the net.

To this end, Bayern dominated time of possession 56/44 and had a 43-9 total shot advantage. The three-headed monster of Ribéry, Robben and in particular Mario Gomez, created tons of pressure but none were able to finish.

Gomez had three good chances in the first half and managed to create good separation from defenders. But his kicks proved too strong to find net. Ribéry appeared to have scored in the 53rd minute but he was ruled offsides.

Credit is due to defender Ashley Cole who, in addition to finding net in the penalty period, flustered Bayern’s talented trio throughout the evening.

When it came down to penalties, it appeared that Bayern again had the upper hand as they connected on their first three penalties and the Blues’ Juan Mata found his shot blocked by keeper Manuel Neuer. But it would prove Chelsea’s only miss.

Bayern's final two attempts were no good as Čech blocked Olić’s attempt and Bastian Schweinsteiger's shot hit the post. Drogba then calmly kicked the ball past Neuer sending the Ivorian and his teammates into a frenzied celebration. 

For Drogba, it was a storybook ending as his heroics on the night solidified his place in the hearts and minds of the Chelsea faithful. His stunning goal against tournament favorite Barcelona was how Chelsea got the finals, and few would argue there was a more deserving man to hoist the trophy at the end.

Though Chelsea will have numerous questions going into next year -- chiefly the status of its interim manager Roberto Di Matteo and whether 34-year-old match hero Drogba will return next year -- Chelsea has momentum going into the next Premier League season and will be guaranteed a spot in the 2013 Champions League tournament to defend its title.

Decisions on Drogba and Di Matteo can wait. Tonight and tomorrow, London will run blue.


Reach Salomon by email.



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