Destiny as Chelsea finally win the UEFA Champions League
Chelsea's Didier Drogba, right, celebrates with Petr Cech after scoring the decisive shootout penalty during the Champions League final soccer match between Bayern Munich and Chelsea in Munich, Germany. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
If you believe in destiny, your belief will have only been reinforced by Chelsea’s dramatic penalty shoot-out win in this morning’s Champions League final over Bayern Munich.
Since arriving in south London nine years ago, Roman Abramovich has been trying to get his hands on “the trophy with big ears”, almost to an obsession in the early days, throwing money and coaches at it at will, and without any return.
Even Jose Mourinho, the man he brought in at the beginning of the era to transform the club and send it up the pecking order, couldn’t quite get him over the line.
Too often that has been a tale of heart-break, with more missed penalties and semi-final losses than any Chelsea fan would care to recall.
Now, ironically, in the most unlikely of circumstances, having sacked the latest coach he brought in to deliver the goods (Andre Villas-Boas), struggling domestically, and with an aging squad that has looked in urgent need of renewal for a few years now, Chelsea have their first European title.
Riding their luck throughout the knock-out phase, battered in a football sense by Barcelona in the semis, instilled with confidence by their make-shift manager, Roberto Di Matteo, this was a victory to savour.
Many might say it was deserved after all the ghosts of the past decade.
For the likes of Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, John Terry, Michael Essien, Ashley Cole, Salomon Kalou, Jon Obi Mikel and Petr Cech, everpresent throughout the Abramovich era, this was a reward for all their hard work.
Domestic titles they have won aplenty, but this was the one they have been chasing.
Summoning all their experience, showing a tactical maturity and discipline they have often lacked on their European adventures, and getting the luck they feel has often deserted them, this was the time it all came together.
Their time. Chelsea’s time.
Here, in the final, just as they did throughout the season, they rode their luck, hanging in, coming back, in normal time, extra time and the shoot-out, eventually finishing with the prize they coveted.
In normal time they were second best throughout and it looked like their defensive strategy had come back to bite them when they copped a late goal, Thomas Müller popping up at the back post to finally get one over the outstanding Cole.
But refusing to give-up, back came Chelsea. From a rare set piece they were able to find an equaliser, the prolific Drogba muscling his way to the near post to power a header through Manuel Neuer.
It was a Chelsea goal if ever there was one.
In extra time it was the same man at the centre of the action again, Drogba giving away a penalty for a clip on Frank Ribery.
But there would be another twist. Cech, such a hero throughout the campaign and again on this night, was up to it, moving swiftly to his left to deny Arjen Robben.
Coming on the back of Lionel Messi’s failed spot-kick in the semis, it appeared the destiny was all Chelsea’s.
This sense was only confirmed in the penalty shoot-out, with Bayern taking what looked winning lead when Neuer stepped up to make it 3 -1 .
Chelsea looked dead and buried, with the pressure on every spot-kick thereafter. David Luiz did his bit, just as he had done filling in for the suspended Terry in the final.
Fittingly, two of Chelsea’s greats, Lampard and Cole, also stepped up and kept their heads.
With Cech going the right way, time and time again, denying both Ivica Olic and Bastian Schweinsteiger to his left, it was left to Drogba to take Chelsea’s fifth and final kick.
The Ivorian, who has come to symbolise the muscle and will-to-win that has often been associated with this Chelsea side, might have been forgiven for thinking back to February’s African Nations Cup and his miss in the final against Zambia.
But this was about Chelsea and their destiny, so it was fitting that Drogba converted, rounding out the work of Cech, Cole and Lampard before him, to give Roman his Big Ears.
Follow Tony on Twitter @TonyTannousTRBA
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