We witnessed possibly the most important victory in Chelsea’s history on Saturday; the luckiest ones of us saw the action at Allianz Arena, those unfortunate not to get a match ticket watched it on huge screens in different parts of Munich, others together in pubs all over the world or on their comfortable couches with their mates and a pint, and the least unfortunate supporters (like moi) watched it quietly in their room, forced to celebrate every goal and save with furious dance moves and mute shouting because of an 11-month-old niece sleeping behind them, butt facing the ceiling. But did I enjoy the match any less – NO!
There has been a lot of speculation in the media and forums about Chelsea’s victory being undeserved. Some of the popular negative responses to Chelsea’s victory were:
- They played unattractive and ugly football by parking the bus and letting the opponent (both Barcelona and Bayern) possess the ball for the majority of the game.
- They set out for a 0-0 score and hoped to win on penalties.
- Borderline cheating and the only reason they made it this far was the millions given to them.
- Look at the stats. Bayern (and Barcelona) dominated the whole game.
- A team that only defends should never win anything.
- Bayern’s profligate finishing cost Bayern, not anything Chelsea did.
- Chelsea think they deserved to win because they lost in 2008.
- Chelsea had a cheating run.
- Winning on penalties is not that deserved.
- Chelsea are the worst team to win the European Cup.
And Edwin Van Der Sar’s infamous quote before the 2nd leg of the semi-final in Barcelona:
For the sake of the game and for football in general, I hope Barcelona win at Camp Nou.
I laughed at him then and I must admit, writing this here made me smirk again.
Let me make a few things clear before I go on with why Chelsea deserved to win. Sometimes, parking the bus is the only way to beat an opponent. Before any club shows the world how to beat Barcelona in a different way, I stand by my opinion. Although Bayern may not appear as threatening as the world’s best from Spain, Chelsea were missing their key players in Terry and Ivanovic, whose absence left them vulnerable. Clearly the midfield and even attackers had to chip in a bit, to help Luiz and Cahill (or as the lovely Spaniards say: Cah-heel) who were doubtful to start just a day before the game, due to recent injuries. Chelsea didn’t go to Munich to run around like chickens, they needed a game plan that would suit them. This was what the obvious solution, correct me if I’m wrong.
To say that Chelsea set out for a 0-0 score to win on penalties is ridiculous. An English team hoping to win against a German team on penalties – ha! I believe even a sensible Manchester United, Liverpool or Arsenal fan would say that’s rubbish. Whenever Champions League games have gone to penalties, Bayern have won four times out of four occasions, whereas Chelsea have lost twice out of two occasions. Penalties were the last thing I wanted because we have lost too many games on penalties. Our FA Cup run last season ended in a penalty shoot out, and who could forget Moscow. Even on international level England hasn’t been excelling much at penalties.
Had Bayern taken their chances, I know they would have won. But it’s not that they didn’t take their chances that cost them the title, it’s that Cech and co. didn’t let them take their chances. The Blues’ defence worked hard to keep the goal safe, so to say Chelsea didn’t do anything to keep Bayern from scoring is OTT. Petr Cech did some of the finest saves of this season and in my eyes he was one of the heroes on Saturday. He managed to deflect Robben’s ball onto the post. A very close shot. He also guessed the right way to stop Robben’s penalty kick in injury time, giving Chelsea another 40 minutes of chances. And then he saved Ivica Olic’s kick in the penalty shootouts. Ashley Cole being another defensive hero, led the whole defensive line, covered for the inexperienced Bertrand, and made a vital block. When he stepped up to take a kick in the penalty shootouts, my heart skipped a beat (as you may remember he missed the decisive penalty kick in last season’s FA Cup 4th round against Everton) but he didn’t disappoint me, and to my amazement he didn’t even look frightened. David Luiz hit the penalty kick of the night and Mikel had possibly his best game of the season. Yes, Bayern had about 30 shots off target but when they hit on target, Cech was solid, as were his “assistants”.
Chelsea might not have been the strongest team to win the European Cup, but they didn’t play badly at all. They saved their energy in the first part of the game, but dominated the extra time when Bayern were getting tired and started losing hope after Drogba’s equalizer in the 88th minute and then Robben’s penalty miss. Chelsea however were more determined to bag that trophy, and even Müller’s 83rd minute goal didn’t slow Chelsea down. Throughout the competition it looked like Chelsea wanted the Holy Grail more than anyone else. Beating Valencia away, which was the last game in the group stages, was crucial for Chelsea in order to make the knockout stages. Then they came from behind to beat the odds and send Napoli out of the competition. In the semi-final 2nd leg at Camp Nou Chelsea were clear outsiders and before half-time they were 2:0 down; yet, thanks to Ramires’ wondergoal and Torres’ compulsory goal against a Spanish opponent in the last minute, Chelsea shocked the world by finishing Barcelona’s title hopes. And now the final – although clearly outplayed for the majority of the 130 minutes, Chelsea never looked insecure or scared to lose. Bayern’s goal should have brought them down, but no, Drogba got his chance and he delivered. A few minutes later Cech looked confident when Bayern were awarded a penalty. Robben did not look as confident.
Here’s a bit of Champions League history for you:
- 2004/05: Liverpool beat AC Milan on penalties.
- 2002/03: AC Milan beat Juventus on penalties.
- 2000/01: Bayern beat Valencia on penalties.
- 1995/96 Juventus beat Ajax on penalties.
- 1990/91 Crvena Zvezda beat Marseilles on penalties.
- 1987/88 PSV beat Benfica on penalties.
- 1985/86 Steaua beat Barcelona on penalties.
- 1983/1984 Liverpool beat Roma on penalties.
- 1973/74 Bayern beat Atletico on penalties.
I dare you to tell a Liverpool fan they didn’t deserve to win in Istanbul, I dare you!
Moving on to the claims that cheating is the reason why Chelsea don’t deserve the European Cup. You can say all you want about Chelsea cheating, but 1) everyone cheats, and 2) can you honestly say Chelsea cheated their way through Champions League? All I can vividly remember is Drogba’s theatrics in the semi-final first leg, which weren’t exactly dives, just exaggerations. Busquets did hurt him a lot, just not as painfully as Drogba made it look. He was embarrassing at times, I admit.
I’m not even going to bother with the money-talks. It’s getting old.
What I won’t accept is people saying Chelsea play unattractively. This final was one of the most exciting games of football I have ever seen. I couldn’t feel relaxed for a minute as my eyes were fixed on the screen, watching Cech make world class saves, Drogba going forward and Bayern missing a chance after another. Chelsea were clinical, and I remember Manchester United play like that on a few occasions. It always shocked me how they could pass the ball around and not get near the goal for most of the time and then they got one chance and scored. Chelsea are generally the opposite of that but now they got the taste of this too.
Tactics and will-power is what mattered in that competition this season. Roberto Di Matteo has ignited the players’ passion and pushed them for the ultimate goal – to get the Holy Grail before some of the long-serving Blues – Drogba, Lampard, Cole, Terry, Malouda, Essien – depart from the club. And what better way for Drogba to finish his career with Chelsea than to score the decisive penalty kick which made him the hero of the tournament! Another hero on Saturday for me was Cech. He revived Chelsea’s hopes by saving Robben’s injury time penalty. There was not a sign of insecurity among any of the Chelsea players, even though they were playing on a ground that’s basically Bayern’s home ground. Mentally they were the strongest team in the competition.
Up the Chels!
Written by Annely
Please note : the views in many of our blogs are written by fans of Chelsea FC and are not necessarily the views of the club