UEFA Champions League Final 2012, Chelsea Vs. Bayern Munich: Chelsea Wins The Cup On Penalties

Didier Drigba The Hero As Chelsea Lift The Cup.

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Champions League Final 2012, Chelsea vs. Bayern Munich: Didier Drigba The Hero As Chelsea Lift The Cup

By most traditional measures, Bayern Munich was a better team than Chelsea. Shots: 43-9. Corners: 20-1. Possession: 56%-44%. The game was well and truly there for the taking for Bayern; despite a strong defensive effort from Chelsea the chances were there, but poor finish after poor finish from the Reds gave the Blues little incentive to open up the play. Had Bayern managed a goal earlier in the going this likely would have been a very different game, and perhaps the superiority they showed in most facets would have carried them to a more comfortable win. Unfortunately for the Reds, it's not about the chances you create but the chances you finish, and Chelsea finished the same number as Bayern.

The first 80 minutes were a bit like a broken record; Bayern Munich dominated possession and patiently broke down a heavily bunkered Chelsea defense, only to have attack after attack either thwarted or wasted. Chelsea periodically broke out on the counter-attack, but any pressure they created ebbed quickly thanks to a quick to react Bayern defense. It was beginning to feel as though the game going to extra time at 0-0 was an inevitability, until the 82nd minute; Bastian Schweinsteiger sent in a looping cross from the left and Thomas Müller slipped behind Ashley Cole, heading down into the turf, back up over the outstretched arms of Petr Cech and into the net. With Chelsea having managed just one shot on goal to that point a change in approach was mandatory, and it didn't take long for it to pay off; in the 88th minute with their first corner of the night Chelsea equalized, Didier Drogba heading emphatically past Manuel Neuer.

The game was different from the moment Müller's shot crossed the line, and if regular time was a bit of a bore (though such judgments are in the eye of the beholder) the rest of the game was anything but; in the early stages of the first period of extra time, Didier Drogba fouled Franck Ribery in the area, handing Bayern a penalty. Arjen Robben stepped up to the spot, but his effort was a very poor one and Cech saved comfortably. The miss was clearly the worst thing to come out of the situation for Bayern, but it wasn't the only bit of bad news; though there didn't appear to be much contact on the foul, Ribery was unable to continue and his club clearly missed him the rest of the way. From there on out it was alternating spells of pressure, each side hanging onto the ball while the opposition extinguished their every attacking move.

Though the road taken to penalties had a few unexpected twists and turns, the expectation that the game would end in that way turned out to be correct. Things looked grim for Chelsea early on; after Philipp Lahm converted Bayern's first attempt, Juan Mata's weak effort was saved easily by Neuer. Mario Gomez, David Luiz, Neuer and Frank Lampard all converted, giving Bayern a 3-2 advantage with two takers remaining. Ivica Olic stepped up for Bayern and Cech, who to that point had guessed right on the first three attempts but was unable to make a stop, smothered the attempt. Ashley Cole brought Chelsea level on his turn, and in a somewhat shocking turn of events Bastian Schweinsteiger's effort clanged off the post. From there it was up to Didier Drogba, and the legendary striker did not disappoint, blasting his shot past Neuer and giving Chelsea a long-elusive Champions League win.

With the victory, Chelsea become the fifth English club to win the European Cup/Champions League title behind Manchester United, Liverpool, Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa, as well as the first team from London to claim European football's highest honor. The win also throws a bit of a wrench into the off-season plans of Tottenham Hotspur, as Chelsea qualify for next season's Champions League, knocking the 4th-place club in the Premier League out of the qualifying round. Bayern's recent Champions League woes continue, as this loss comes just two years after a loss to Inter Milan and marks their third defeat overall. It will be interesting to see what Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich decides to do about the still-vacant (in an official sense) managerial position; though Roberto di Matteo is not likely the kind of name he had in mind as Andre Villas-Boas' replacement, his ability to accomplish a goal that has long eluded the Blues may well change his mind.

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Champions League Final 2012, Chelsea vs. Bayern Munich: All Even At Half Time

Bayern Munich has dominated possession and had the better of the chances, but a determined effort from the Chelsea defense-as well as some awful finishing from Mario Gomez-has kept seen the game half time without a goal. The Blues have gone with a less extreme version of their counter-attacking approach used to great success against Barcelona in the semi-final, and it's been tactically quite interesting; Chelsea's players seem far more concerned with exploiting open space in possession than with their typical roles, which has led to some unorthodox looking attacks.

Still, despite the excellent effort from Chelsea in the defensive phase it's difficult to picture them keeping a clean sheet for another half. The pressure has been immense, with Bayern managing 16 shots in the first half. Only 2 have been on goal, which is indicative of the struggles they've had in finishing the chances they've managed to create. With the attacking quality the side brings to the table, assuming those struggles will continue would be a dangerous bet for Chelsea to make.

The Blues are clearly not going to match the Reds where chances are concerned, but they will need to be less wasteful with the opportunities that do come their way. The openings have been there for Chelsea, but they've done far less than would be expected. This is a team that is quite capable of inflicting serious damage on the break, but the flow through midfield has been spotty and numerous touches from Chelsea's attacking players have gone awry. Roberto di Matteo seems to have gone with the right approach, but the quality in the final third will have to improve if Chelsea hope to lift the trophy.

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Champions League Final 2012, Chelsea vs. Bayern Munich Lineups

With each side having to make some adjustments thanks to suspensions, the lineups for this game have been the subject of much speculation. Now, the waiting is over; the lineups have been announced and can be found below.

Chelsea Starting XI, Champions League Final 2012:

Petr Cech; Ashley Cole, David Luiz, Gary Cahill, Jose Bosingwa; John-Obi Mikel, Ryan Bertrand, Frank Lampard, Juan Mata, Salomon Kalou; Didier Drogba

Chelsea Bench: Ross Turnbull, Michael Essien, Paulo Ferreira, Oriol Romeu, Florent Malouda, Daniel Sturridge, Fernando Torres

Bayern Munich XI, Champions League Final 2012:

Manuel Neuer; Jerome Boateng, Philipp Lahm, Diego Contento, Anatoliy Tymoschuck; Toni Kroos, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller, Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben; Mario Gomez

Bayern Munich Bench: Hans-Jorg Butt, Daniel van Buyten, Rafinha, Takashi Usami, Danijel Pranjic, Nils Petersen, Ivica Olic

Both sides will presumably line up in a 4-2-3-1 shape; the most interesting development is the inclusion of 22-year-old Ryan Bertrand in the Chelsea lineup. A fullback by trade, Bertrand will be asked to help reign in whichever of Bayern's dangerous wingers ends up on the left hand side. Did we mention it's also Bertrand's first ever Champions League appearance? Not exactly a soft landing.

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Champions League Final 2012, Chelsea vs. Bayern Munich: Two Strange Paths, Two Different Approaches

If you were making predictions as to who would make it to Munich as little as six weeks ago, these would likely not have been the sides you saw going through. It seemed as though yet another Classico between Barcelona and Real Madrid was all but preordained, to be played on the grandest possible stage for the first time in history. But it quickly became apparent that this year's Champions League was less historical epic in the making than cinéma vérité; Real Madrid was the first to exit, an historically bad performance in the decisive penalty shootout proving to be their downfall. At this point Chelsea's victory over Barcelona needs little recapping; it was the game that made the world once again appreciate the value of defense, a performance derided as hopelessly cynical by those that idealize tika-taka as the one true religion, celebrated by those that have grown weary of the belief that there is but one way to play the game and met with a semi-bewildered chuckle and shrug by the vast majority that fall somewhere in between.

This is indeed a less glamorous Champions League final than might have once been envisioned, but in many ways it is far more intriguing. There's little doubt that Barcelona and Real Madrid play some of the most beautiful football the world has ever seen and each match between the sides is something akin to a tent revival, but in any given season the odds are quite favorable that the two will face off on five separate occasions. What's more, it's become something of a given that the higher the stakes the less attractive the game; if the trend were to continue down its most recent path, the entire world would be in for a full 120 minutes of Sergios Busquets and Ramos taking turns hacking down skillful players and crying to the heavens for relief from their various maladies. That's not to say that a Barca-Real final would not have been quite the occasion; it's just unlikely that the idealized version some segments of the populace lament not taking place would have ever come to fruition.

Instead, we have a match between the perennial powerhouse of Germany that has failed to win the title two years running and the nouveau-riche posterchild of yesteryear that have finished outside of England's top four for the first time in a decade. On the face of it that sounds like a bit of a letdown, but to dismiss this final out of hand as a disappointment would be akin to wearing a t-shirt that says "I'm No Fun" in big, black letters. There are all kinds of fun and interesting angles to this game, and if nothing else it hammers home the fact that Europe's elite sides are far, far closer in terms of ability than is generally assumed. Few people would take much umbrage with the opinion that Barca and Real are the two best teams on the continent, but Chelsea and Bayern beat them fair and square and the clubs that ended up finishing on top of each side's domestic league bowed out in the Champions League group stage. Despite the inevitability that sometimes surrounds the games, there's more than a whiff of a crapshoot about the proceedings at times, and that's really all we're looking for as sports fans.

So far as the teams themselves are concerned, they couldn't really go about things in more disparate ways. Chelsea is something of a harbinger of what has become of modern football, a team built through the inexhaustible financial might of their oligarchic owner that has still been unable to claim European football's ultimate prize. By contrast, Bayern Munich is a model of fiscal discipline, preferring instead to invest heavily in youth and development. Chelsea's approach is indicative of that of the English Premier League while Bayern's is the model of the Bundesliga, but despite popular opinion neither is inherently superior to the other. In top-level football winning is the only goal, and so long as the letter of the law is adhered to the path to victory is irrelevant. The Blues have gotten to where they are by snapping up the world's brightest talents, from Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba to Juan Matan and David Luiz, while FCB have been a fixture on this stage since the mid-1960s thanks to a prudent and youth-based approach. No matter who triumphs, the trophy will still shine just as bright.

Where Chelsea is concerned, a win would almost certainly deliver the currently vacated manager's job to caretaker Roberto di Matteo and is as well the only path to a return trip to the Champions League. It's been a tumultuous season for the Blues to say the least, with a rebuilding project undertaken by Andre Villas-Boas going quickly off the rails and resulting in the well-ahead-of-schedule sacking of the young Portuguese wunderkind; if Roman Abramovich is at last able to lift the European Cup, it would more than justify his itchy trigger finger. For Bayern, it would replace the foul taste left in many Bavarian mouths by back-to-back titles won by arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund with that of champagne (or, perhaps more likely, a lightly-chilled eisbock.) From a neutral perspective, observers will be in for what is certain to be a fascinating tactical matchup, with two sides that thrive on solid wing play and impenetrable central midfields attempting to unlock one another in a game that is unlikely to devolve into an exhibition of anti-football. Will Bayern stake a claim for the Bundesliga as the standard against which all others should be judged? Will Chelsea's long and to this point fruitless quest for the greatest honor in club football finally come to an end? If you're not intrigued by this match, you've likely passed the cynical point of no return.

The match will kick off on Saturday at 11:45 a.m. PT and will be televised coast to coast on FOX. Make sure you check back here with our live coverage at SB Nation Seattle's UEFA Champions League StoryStream.

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