Chelsea’s road along the knockout phase of the Champions League to the Final in Munich had been tough. A thrilling round of 16 win against Napoli was succeeded by a slightly more comfortable tie against Benfica. Then, in a thrilling, epic, two-leg semi-final, the Londoners overcame the tournament favourites, Barcelona, in their own back yard.
Saturday 19th May saw tens of thousands of Chelsea fans stream into Munich via air, train, and even road, with hotel rates going through the roof, and many fans planning to make their way back in the middle of the night after the game. A glorious spring day saw beer gardens and squares throughout the city packed with supporters of both clubs enjoying the sunshine. Even problems with the U-bahn system failing to cope with the numbers of passengers couldn’t spoil the day, and as the sun set, the Champions League anthem rang out around the Allianz Stadium, and the Munichers unveiled a giant mosaic with the ominous words.
Unsere Stadt. Unser Stadion. Unser Pokal.
Our City. Our Stadium. Our Trophy.
The teams shook hands and the game began. A tense 45 minutes ensued, with John Obi Mikel a titan in midfield, and young Ryan Bertrand showing no sign of youthful nerves. 0-0 at half time. So far, so good, but Bayern were looking ominous. Into the second half. Gomez and Robben both miss sitters. On 83 minutes – disaster. Kroos’ cross met Muller, who headed the ball down into the ground. It bounced up, over Cech and, to the utter horror of the Chelsea support, went in off the crossbar. In an attempt to shore up the defence and keep Chelsea out, Muller was replaced by van Buyten.
Then, on 88 minutes, blessed relief. Mata’s corner found Drogba’s head, and he powered it into the net. Indeed, Chelsea could have won the game in injury time, but Drogba smashing a late free kick over the bar.
Extra time. Drogba foul on Ribery. Penalty to Bayern. Inevitable defeat for Chelsea. But Robben’s weak shot was saved by Cech. The game limped on to penalties. To the outrage of the away fans, not only did the penalties take place at the Bayern end, but they took the first one.
Lahm slammed his penalty into the right-hand side of the goal past Petr Cech. 1-0 to Bayern.
Next Mata delicately chipped Neuer to make it 1-1.
Gomez’s pen also hit the bottom right – 2-1 to Bayern. Luiz buried Chelsea’s second penalty into the top corner. 2-2.
Goalkeeper Neuer’s bravery was rewarded when his shot crept into the bottom left hand corner, just beating the diving Cech. 3-2 to Bayern. Lampard smashed his penalty down the middle to make it 3-3.
Olić stepped to take the fourth Bayern penalty and sent Petr Cech the wrong way. 4-3 to Bayern. Then disaster. Ashley Cole’s right-hand shot was brilliantly saved by Neuer, who pushed it round the post. The Bayern fans around the stadium jumped up and down with delight as they realised they were one kick away from winning.
Bastian Schweinsteiger put the ball down on the penalty spot and walked calmly away. The stadium held its breath. A five pace run up, a clean strike of the ball, left-footed into the net, sending Cech the wrong way. 5-3 to Bayern.
The stadium exploded. Bayern fans on all sides of the ground jumped for joy. Their Chelsea counterparts stood in silence. It was too much for some Chelsea supporters, particularly younger fans, many of whom wept and had to be comforted by family and friends. Several thousand left the stadium immediately for the long trek back to the u-bahn, unable to watch another team go up and lift the trophy following a new shootout failure. Many, however, stayed on to salute their heroes. David Luiz sat in the centre circle and wept uncontrollably. Didier Drogba sank to his knees and sobbed. Player after player trudged past the Bayern guard of honour up the stairs to collect their losers’ medal from UEFA President Michel Platini, who was barely able to keep the smirk off his face. One by one, the players pulled their silver medals from around their necks and made their way down the stairs to sympathetic applause from the home support, and dragged themselves over to the Chelsea end of the stadium. Both the old and young guard were on the verge of tears. John Terry thumped his chest and saluted the crowd. Hands over head, Frank Lampard clapped the supporters with tears in his eyes. Meanwhile, Bayern captain Philip Lahm had reached the platform and was collecting the Champions League trophy to the acclaim of the crowd. Ticker-tape exploded around the stadium and the Champions League anthem rang out.
That was enough for the disconsolate Chelsea supporters, who left the stadium for the long drag back to the U-Bahn station, where already heavy queues were building up. The transit system, which had struggled to cope with the volume of passengers throughout the day, was becoming downright dangerous, with supporters fighting to get on trains and get back to town for a consolation drink. Trains were held in tunnels for ten, fifteen, minutes at a time, causing passengers serious discomfort. Even back in town, the travails weren’t over, with sporadic outbreaks of disorder in the centre of Munich as the jubilation of the Munich fans became too much for some supporters.
The defeated Chelsea team arrived back in London on Sunday afternoon, the hoped-for victory parade cancelled. On Monday Chelsea issued a press release stating that a decision on Roberto Di Matteo’s future as Chelsea manager would be made by the end of the week. Radio phone-ins and social media were flooded with calls and messages from fans saying that Robbie had taken the club as far as he could and a more experienced manager was needed.
On Friday 25th May, Chelsea issued a statement advising that whilst the club thanked Roberto Di Matteo for taking the club to two cup finals in 2012, his contract as manager would not be renewed.
Speculation as to the identity of the new manager continue to rage until it was announced on 21st June that the new manager of Chelsea FC would be ………..