Rafael Benitez

Chelsea battled their way to glory

Rafael Benitez

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Finally, Chelsea wiped out years of bad memories by winning the Champions League.

They had to wait for the last kick in the final round of penalties - it was converted by Didier Drogba to give Roman Abramovich his dream Champions League trophy and see them qualify for next season's competition.

There have been years of consecutive attempts, almost getting their hands on the trophy in Moscow four years ago, but at last Chelsea have the cup they wanted. And, because football can be so unpredictable, it has probably come when they least expected it and in the most difficult circumstances.

From that poor result in Napoli that they had to overturn up to the tie against Barcelona, it looked like they would have to do it the hard way. And as if that wasn't enough, they had to play the final against Bayern Munich in the German side's home ground, with their fans behind them in a perfect situation. But football has these elements, and that's what is great about it and why it excites us.

Roberto Di Matteo, who took over the team after Andre Villas-Boas left, has won what no other Chelsea manager could, the Champions League final. My sincere congratulations go to him, the players, the directors, the fans and the rest of the club. At the same time, and with the same feelings, my respect, sympathy and best wishes go to the other great club, its players, staff, directors and fans, European giants Bayern Munich. In my time as a coach I have won and lost a Champions League final, so I know how they both feel and I can put myself in their shoes.

Bayern Munich 1 (3)-Chelsea 1 (4)

First half

From the start, Di Matteo's Chelsea went with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with young Ryan Bertrand on the left of midfield. They were dropping off but not as deep or compact as they were against Barcelona. But it looked like the same plan: drop off and counter-attack. Maybe they thought they had to do that to stop Bayern, who pressurised from the start. They found it difficult to keep the ball, lost it quickly and had little success in the break. Their first shot on goal didn't come until the 36th minute.

As for Bayern, they were using 4-2-3-1 but in a different way. They were dominating the game, had possession of the ball with figures of 64%, forced 20 corners overall and were getting in shots, 26 in all. But were also regaining the ball fairly quickly.

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Bertrand was supporting Ashley Cole in defence against Arjen Robben and the sporadic attacks of Philipp Lahm in the first half. Chelsea were organised in defence and tried to counter-attack, mostly without success or just played long to Didier Drogba with little effect.

The Chelsea midfield - Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel - were keeping an eye on players between lines. In theory, Thomas Mueller was the player in that area but Robben and Franck Ribery were also changing positions with him, giving the Chelsea midfielders something to think about.

The German side had Bastian Schweinsteiger often dropping deep to receive and keep possession, although Toni Kroos was certainly helping him organise their play. They moved the ball patiently and well, getting into their opponent's box quite easily. If Chelsea went forward a bit more and lost the ball, Bayern's counter-attacks were launched quickly.

Defensively, there was only one mistake by Anatoliy Tymoshchuk in the 36th minute. The Ukrainian pushed out to press between the lines a bit too much and left Drogba on his own to control the ball and be one-on-one with Manuel Neuer. But he lost the ball as Lahm got back and shut off the danger well.

The mobility and interchange of positions by the three players in the second line was the key to getting through in attack, and when they got the ball to Ribery and Robben, who were often both on the same flank, they caused Chelsea the most problems.

In the Chelsea side, only a Salomon Kalou shot stood out, after a good move by Lampard with a pass to Drogba, but Kalou saw his shot saved by Neuer.

In summary of the first half, Bayern had control of the possession and more penetration, and although they were precise in the final third and around the box, they lacked the same precision in their finishing.

Second Half

The second half began with two fairly dangerous Bayern counter-attacks, which showed mainly the Chelsea plan after the break to have more of the ball and get forward.

There were more options in the game and more space in midfield, the ball was changing hands with greater frequency and the Chelsea defence was more exposed, with the two midfielders getting forward more.

A goal by Ribery was disallowed for offside in the 53rd minute. The referee judged that the shot from Robben was deflected by the defender, giving Ribery, in an offside position, the chance to finish - but it did not count.

Gradually, Bayern began to control the match once more, and were more dangerous when they regained possession near to Chelsea's box. Their corners were not causing problems, taking a few short to vary the play but still without success. We saw a chance for Ribery stopped by Cech, a dangerous Kroos shot and a difficult chance for Drogba to finish from Neuer's error.

Then we had the substitutions. Malouda came on for Bertrand, who had done well trying to prevent the Munich attacks which had given them 23 shots to Chelsea's five, and 16 corners compared to none for the Londoners.

Ten minutes later, Robben, Ribery and Kroos were all on the left and Kroos's cross was finished by Mueller at the back post. It looked as though it might win the game as there was so little time left. But a final is a final.

Di Matteo brought on Fernando Torres for Kalou and the Spaniard went on the right, bringing more pace and greater intensity to the game, which lifted the team.

Bayern manager Jupp Heynckes brought on Daniel van Buyten for the goalscorer, Mueller, Van Buyten having recovered just in time for the final after injury in January. They wanted to give themselves better protection in the air in the last few minutes but again, as happens in football, Drogba scored the goal that sent the match to extra time from the only corner Chelsea had, in the 88th minute. Drogba was helped by an unintentional block by Lampard on Jerome Boateng, who was marking the Ivory Coast striker.

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Extra Time

So after a short break to rehydrate, the 30 extra minutes began with a counter-attack by Torres. Next a key part of the game, at least in my opinion: Drogba's foul on Ribery for the penalty which forced Ribery to go off injured.

Robben took it and Cech saved it - and this gave his team the impetus to look for the win.

Bayern's Ivica Olic, who had come on for Ribery, had a great chance when he passed to Van Buyten in the six-yard box, but his fellow substitute could not quite get to the ball.

From then on, Bayern kept on pressing and Chelsea were defending intensely until it went to penalties as the scoreboard indicated a draw in the Allianz Arena.

A game of chance

To make the final even more tense, Bayern went in front and even goalkeeper Neuer took one of the penalties and converted the third. But, as we all know, Drogba put away the last one and Chelsea won the Champions League in their second final.

To go back to the start, congratulations to the Blues for this momentous and longed-for win and our sympathies and best wishes to Bayern at a difficult time. Europe has a new champion.

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