The Champions League Final was filled with drama and many twists on Saturday. Chelsea defeated Bayern Munich in penalty kicks to finally win the trophy that owner Roman Abramovich has coveted. Here are ten thoughts about Saturday:
1. Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo deserves a lot of credit for the job he has done since taking over for Andre Villas-Boas in the middle of the season. Di Matteo salvaged a disappointing league campaign with a FA Cup and Champions League trophy. It will be interesting to see if Chelsea will make Di Matteo their permanent manager. Regardless of what happens, Di Matteo will be remembered in Chelsea history.
2. Didier Drogba is planning on leaving Chelsea. The Ivory Coast striker will be departing the club on top after scoring the game tying goal and winning penalty kick on Saturday. Drogba almost ended up as the goat when he took down Franck Ribery in the box early in extra time. However, Petr Cech spared embarrassment for Drogba by saving Arjen Robben’s spot kick. Two Cech saves in penalty kicks opened the door for Drogba to be the hero one last time.
3. Give a lot of credit to Di Matteo for starting young Ryan Bertrand at left midfield. Bertrand did well in his first Champions League appearance. He is a natural left back so he was able to help Ashley Cole contain the dangerous Arjen Robben. It was a bold move by Di Matteo that worked.
4. The win for Chelsea is a fitting end to many Champions League heartbreaks. In 2008, John Terry missed a game winning penalty kick in Moscow, and Manchester United ended up winning the final. In 2009, Barcelona sunk Chelsea through a last gasp goal by Andres Iniesta in the semifinals. In 2010, they were upset by Inter Milan in the round of 16. Those glum moments for Chelsea fans can be forgotten now that they have European hardware.
5. The amazing part of Chelsea winning the Champions League this season was how they got there. In the round of 16, their chances were slim after a first leg loss to Napoli. Di Matteo rallied his players to comeback in the second leg and force extra time. Branislav Ivanovic scored an extra time winner to send Chelsea to the quarterfinals. Chelsea didn’t have too much trouble with Benefica in the quarterfinals. Going into the semifinals Chelsea were heavy underdogs against Barcelona. Throughout the two legs they were out possessed severely, but scored two counterattack goals to send them to Munich. Chelsea continued to be the comeback kids in Munich as Drogba’s equalizer came right after Thomas Muller scored the first goal of the match. Chelsea’s run was just as impressive as Manchester City’s EPL title run this season.
6. Looking at the match stats, the one thing that stuck out for me was the corner kicks. Bayern Munich has some tall players that are great in the air, but were never able to do much with their 20 corner kicks. Chelsea only had one corner kick and they made the most of it. Drogba’s 88th minute goal was a header off a corner kick.
7. It is common that soccer’s big games disappoint because teams play very conservative and try to avoid costly mistakes. This game wasn’t beautiful soccer, but it was highly entertaining throughout. This was the best final since 2008. Barcelona handily beat Manchester United in 2009 and 2011, and Inter Milan had little trouble with Bayern Munich in 2010.
8. Saturday was another instance of Arjen Robben disappointing in a big match. He is a world-class player, but his legacy will be that he has been on the losing end of important games. The 2010 Champions League Final is one example, and the 2010 World Cup Final is another. In the World Cup Final, Robben had several opportunities to win the World Cup for the Netherlands. On Saturday, Robben missed a penalty kick in extra time that would’ve likely won the Champions League.
9. Another major match in Germany, another time the Germans fail to win on their home soil. Germany is one of the great soccer nations in the World, but has had some heartbreaking results in the last six years. The Germany national team lost to Italy in the 2006 World Cup semifinals in extra time in Dortmund. The Germany women’s national team was upset in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Women’s World Cup that took place in Germany. Now Bayern Munich, in their own stadium, lost a match that they should’ve won.
10. The match can affect England and Germany as Euro 2012 takes place in less than three weeks. It was a truly amazing season in England in 2011-2012. Manchester City won a dramatic title for the first time in 44 year. Chelsea went on an incredible run in the Champions League with Frank Lampard, Ashely Cole and Gary Cahill playing key roles. Can the magic from the club season last and inspire the Three Lions this summer? It certainly can’t hurt. The German Bayern Munich players must have short memories as the come into the Germany training camp. Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and Mario Gomez must focus and get ready for next month. Germany is one of the favorites of the Euro 2012, and they need some of these players to be in great form.