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Tranmere Rovers & Cheltenham Town Stare Into The Abyss
And so it finally came to pass. Nine years after Roman Abramovich arrived at Stamford Bridge and spent like no other owner before him, and Chelsea win the one prize that always eluded Roman’s riches. Ironically, this comes just a week after Sheik Mansour’s Manchester City won the league on even greater resources than Chelsea have been used to. Regardless of how the squad was assembled,Chelsea fought hard for the win, and did it in the toughest way possible – going behind seven minutes from time, conceding a penalty in extra time, and even missing their first penalty in a shootout they eventually won 4-3.
Both sides started the match with players missing through suspension. The absence of Branislav Ivanovic and John Terry weakened Chelsea’s defence, and presumably played a part in the selection at left midfield of Ryan Bertrand, making his Champions League debut. With David Luiz and Gary Cahill both lacking match practice – the Brazilian’s last game was against Tottenham Hotspur on April 14th – Ashley Cole would be expected to cover more defensive duties than normal, meaning that a more defensive left midfielder was needed to help Cole cope with Arjen Robben. The lack of Raul Meireles and Ramires also reduced the midfield options, but most would have expected Florent Malouda to start. Bayern had their own suspensions – Holger Badstuber and David Alaba are the left side of the Bavarian’s defence, and Luis Gustavo is the most defensive midfielder Bayern have, and while Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger are both great players, neither are a replacement when it comes to protecting an already weakened defence.
The first two minutes see everyone setting their stall out – Bayern take the initiative in their own stadium. Chelseago defensive, to do a containing job similar to that of the semi-finals against Barcelona, and referee Pedro Proenca shows he’s not going to take any messing about, by booking Schweinsteiger for a blatant handball. Schweinsteiger has the first shot after five minutes, but his speculative effort is blocked by Gary Cahill. Toni Kroos. Schweinsteiger also sets up Kroos for another shot from outside the area, but it goes wide. A first Chelseaattack on eight minutes breaks down, and Bayer break, but while Robben cuts inside to get a better angle from the shot, the shot is wildly off target. Mario Gomez adds to the shots off-target count with a header under pressure from David Luiz, and while Bayern have most the possession and all the chances, none of the chances are that clear-cut. In fact, its not until the 21st minute that Bayern register a shot on target. Robben weaves his way into the area, and fires a low shot that Petr Cech diverts onto the woodwork.
It takes another 12 minutes forChelseato have their first meaningful shot. Jerome Boateng fouls Cahill 25 yards out from goal, but Juan Mata tamely puts the ball over the bar. The attack provides the spark of a brief flurry of end to end action. Diego Contento provides Thomas Muller with a great chance that he volleys wide. Drogba finds himself unmarked on the edge of the area, but can’t get the ball to fall right so, he finds Lampard, who provides the unmarked Salomon Kalou with a chance from a tight angle that provides Manuel Neuer with his first save of the game. Ribery mishits a shot into the path of Muller, who doesn’t react quickly enough. With Bayern’s next attack, Muller runs into Luiz in the forlorn hope of winning a penalty, but the ball falls for Gomez, who turns Luiz, but fires the ball high into theChelseafans behind the goal. It’s the best chance of the half and the last chance of the half.
The second half follows the same pattern as the first. Bayern have most of the possession, but are forced to resort to half-chances and shots from distance, whileChelseastay organized, looking for a counter-attack. Kroos has the first shot of the second period, but it’s outside the area, and deflected for a corner by Luiz. Drogba tries his luck from 40 yards out on the volley, and isn’t too far from hitting the target. On 53 minutes, Bayern have the ball in the net. Muller finds space on the left, and pulls the ball back to Robben, whose shot is blocked by Ashley Cole, only for Ribery to fire the rebound home – but the flag is up, and the goal is ruled out. Robben has a chance five minutes later, which is again blocked by Cole. Ribery creates Bayern’s next chance, but he drags his shot wide, and frustration is starting to show for the “home” side. Kroos has a shot blocked, Robben fires a shot straight at Cech and Muller hooks one wide Ashley Cole gets booked for a clumsy challenge on Muller, who has a header saved when the resultant free kick finally reaches the penalty area. With seven minutes left, and just as Bayern start to look like they’ll never score, they make the breakthrough. Kroos puts in a cross from the left, Cole misjudges it, and collides with Gomez, leaving Muller unmarked, and he heads down into the ground and into the net. Bayern 1Chelsea0.
Roberto Di Matteo brings Torres on, andChelseapush forward, and with three minutes left they win their only corner of the game. Mata delivers a cross, and Drogba heads it home. A million drinks get downed as Clive Tyldesley brings up “that night inBarcelona”, and for the second time, Bayern lose a late lead against an English side in the Champions League final. Bayern 1Chelsea1.
Drogba has a last chance to win it from a free-kick, but it sails high over the bar, and we enter extra time.Chelseahave the first chances in extra time with Frank Lampard and Mata both having shots blocked. Bayern’s first foray into the Chelsea box in extra time ends up with a penalty as Drogba clips Ribery’s heels from behind, putting him out of the game. Robben steps up to take the penalty, puts it to Cech’s left, and the Czech keeper saves it. Robben may have been put off by a beach ball thrown by aChelseafan behind the goal, but Bayern don’t complain. It’s the most eventful moment of an otherwise scrappy extra time that sees blocked shots from Bayern substitute Daniel Van Buyten, Boateng and Anatoli Tymoshchuk. The closest chance comes on 108 minutes, as Philipp Lahm crosses for Ivica Olic, whose shot goes across the face of the goal, and just creeps past the far post, and Van Buyten. Eventually the game peters out though, and with the final score 1-1, the game is settled by penalties.
Lahm scores the first penalty for Bayern, but Neuer saves Mata’s penalty. Gomez, Luiz, Neuer(!) and Lampard all score from the spot, but Cech saves from Olic, enabling Cole to level the scores. Schweinsteiger puts his effort onto the post, leaving Didier Drogba with the task of winning the Champions League with what could be his last touch for the club. And after several near misses, Chelsea become the first London club to win the Champions League (or it’s predecessor), and while much has been made of John Terry becoming the new David May and being one of the centrepoints of the post-match celebrations (changing out of the suit he wore during the game, into full kit, including shinpads), but the truth is that all of the suspended Chelsea players did the same. With that said, it is amusing that as Terry and Lampard lift the trophy, two teammates manage to stand in front of Terry, so he cannot be seen.
So what next forChelsea? Regardless of whoever is the manager next season, a serious amount of rebuilding needs to be done – if not next season, then over the next season year or two. Drogba’s contract talks appear to have hit a stalemate . Cole, Terry, Lampard and Malouda are all in their thirties, and Bosingwa hits the big 30 in August. While the results of Financial Fair Play (FFP) are still a couple of seasons away, the reporting period begins during the close season, and unless Chelsea are going to be spend big before the reporting period begins, they may find that they may have to make a choice between squad improvements and European football. It’s not inconceivable that Abramovich may decide that having now won the one trophy he wanted above all others, and with FFP restricting his spending, it’s time to walk away from English football. It’s not the most ludicrous suggestion, but one that would be welcomed by all those opposed to financial doping and the successes it helps bring.
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Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.