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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.