We have done it! Chelsea are the champions of Europe! After years and years of pain and hurt, Chelsea have finally made it. The irony is that we’ve had much better and younger Chelsea teams that were more capable and better chances of landing this trophy but didn’t. This season was supposed to be worst season since Roman had taken over. We were going through several internal turbulence and our opponents were growing stronger and stronger. This champions league this season could have been won by Real Madrid, Barcelona, Man Utd, Man City, Bayern or Milan – very strong teams in much better form than ours. Ours was a team that was in a downward slide. Players have become older and slower. Odds were stacked totally against Chelsea. And still we made it.
It wasn’t easy. We had to win our last group league game to make it to the knockout round. And that too, we had to beat Valencia. ‘That’s it for Chelsea?’. Not yet. We had to win the last After Chelsea lost 3-1 at Naples, not many gave a chance for Chelsea to overturn that deficit against red hot Napoli which had the world-class attacking trio of Cavani, Hamsik and Lavezzi. ‘That’s it for Chelsea?’. Not yet. With one eye on the domestic scene, we made heavy weather of eliminating Benfica. At 1-1 in the home leg, it was anyone’s game. ‘That’s it for Chelsea?’. Not yet. Drawn against Barca. Second leg at Camp Nou. 2-0 down and a man down with 50 mins to go. ‘Surely that’s it for Chelsea?’. Not yet. Final at Munich against Bayern with a 1-0 down at the 84th minute. ‘Surely now, that’s it for Chelsea?’. Still not yet. We are the champions of Europe!
Bayern were the favourites. It’s incorrect to say they had an ‘edge’ because it was much more than just an ‘edge’. The whole city of Munich was waiting for this occasion. Bayern have been mentally preparing for this ever since the beginning of this season. The whole city was awash in red. It was red everywhere. This was the celebration the football-crazy city was waiting for. As per the UEFA allocation, both Bayern and Chelsea were to get 17.5k seats each but Bayern ended up filling the rest of the stadium with their fans. This was the champions league final being hosted in their pitch where, in Jupp Heynckes’ words, they knew every blade of grass. The odds were completely in their favour. If Chelsea were beaten, the football world would not have complained. European giants Bayern winning the champions league trophy at Fussball Arena Munchen is perfectly in line with the script.
A Chelsea win would ruin their party. Bayern weren’t even thinking of that possibility. They knew they could win and the opportunity to play the final in front of their home fans was a gift from the God. But probably the key factor was exactly that. As I had mentioned in my preview post, playing at home could also be very stressful and that’s what Bayern found out. The first half went by the script. Bayern to attack relentlessly, Chelsea to defend and look for counterattacks. Bayern could have taken the lead but just couldn’t calm themselves and show the composure that was required. Chelsea were living dangerously. In the second half, Chelsea settled into a defensive rhythm, like they did against Barca, and dealt with Bayern more comfortably.
When Muller scored at the 84th minute, Bayern and their fans certainly thought it was game over. Think of this, Bayern were goal up and charged up. They had their fans behind them. All along the game, they had the ball. So it should have been quite easy for them to see through the remaining few minutes. And then Chelsea got their second corner of the game for Drogba to arise and blast a header in. 1-1 at the 88th minute.
The Bayern heads and shoulders were beginning to drop. They were getting more and more frustrated and annoyed that things weren’t going their way. They knew that he had their one hand on the trophy when Muller scored and they dropped it. Chelsea meanwhile were bouncing around with no signs of tiredness. Chelsea were mentally more prepared and alert. A penalty conceded in the extra time of a champions league final had to be conclusive. And it was. The moment Cech saved Robben’s penalty, I ‘knew’ that we were surely going to win that night. It was like Messi’s penalty miss. Even in the Barca game as soon as Messi missed the penalty, I ‘knew’ that we would go through. Here too, Robben’s miss confirmed my hope that it’s our destiny to win the champions league this season.
Penalty shoot out in a champions league final. Bayern were favourites again. Given what happened to us in Moscow, we too had to start as underdogs again. Basically the Bayern’s and Chelsea’s statuses as favourites and underdogs respectively had got renewed ahead of the shoot out. German teams don’t lose penalties, that too on their soil. And this shoot out had to be taken at the Bayern end of the stadium. As a Chelsea player, as you run up to shoot, all that’s their in the background was red, red and more red. Mata missed his penalty for us to go ‘oh no! not again’. One thing I was sure was ‘we didn’t come all this far to lose in the penalties’.
What happened after that was epic! I must admit I couldn’t bear to see the last few spot kicks. The last I saw was Lampard making it 2-3 to Chelsea. I was so tense that I just couldn’t see it. Instead I had my ears to my home theatre speakers with my eyes closed, hoping to hear the words I wanted to hear. I heard that Olic missed. I was jumping around. Sat down eyes closed, ears to the speakers for Ashley Cole smashing it in. Again I was jumping around. Again sat down eyes closed, ears to the speakers for Cech’s save of Schweinsteiger. Again I was jumping around. The match-winning spot kick from Drogba – I don’t even remember if I saw it live or not. It’s almost like it’s irrelevant. All I remember was jumping around like a mad man at around 3am in the morning. Chelsea are the Champions of Europe!
I was so relieved, exhausted, excited and ecstatic – all rolled into one. I didn’t want the night to end. Spoke to the Chelsea mates, browsed all football news websites, all football forums and blogs. I just didn’t want the night to end. By that time the re-run of the whole match had begun. Started watching that. And ended up watching the whole re-run of 120 minutes plus shoot out plus the awards ceremony and celebrations. All along, I was reading the reading the reactions from the football world for our historic win. Soon it was 6:30 am in the morning. Went to bed and was still checking news updates on my iphone and didn’t even know when I slept. When I woke up (after a few hours), I checked my mobile to see if Chelsea are European champions. I’m not joking. I did exactly that. I know many of us did!
Champions of Europe! Against all the odds, against the run of play, against incredible oppositions, despite all the absences, we have won the champions league title. This campaign should serve as a great lesson for the students and the fans of the game. I’m so so proud to be a Chelsea fan. This is the Chelsea we know and love. They just never give up, they fight till the last, their commitment can never be doubted. That’s the Chelsea we saw in the last 100 days. What a turnaround!
We ain’t got no history, eh? We are creating history! 3 premier league titles, 4 FA Cups, 2 league cups, 2 community shields and 1 champions league title. All these weren’t in the times of Winston Churchill or Margaret Thatcher. All these titles were won in the last 8 seasons. This is called creating history while others are gloating over past laurels. While we are at it – we are the first London club EVER to be crowned European champions. How about that?
We have now joined the elite group of European champions. A true milestone in the progress of the club. The Chelsea fans deserve a round of applause for the unwavering support provided in the stadia, in the pubs and on the internet. We will come back for more. Chelsea’s next challenge is to defend the trophy – something that none of the champions have been able to do. Let’s leave the challenges for later. Now is the time for rejoicing and celebration. Rest everything can wait – managerial appointment, new transfers, induction of youth, contract extensions – they all can wait. Now’s the time to enjoy and celebrate! Go nuke the world, you champions of Europe!