Before last Saturday’s Champions league Final, the match between Bayern Munich and Chelsea was being hyped up as the Day of Destiny. Afterwards you couldn’t help but feel that Chelsea was very, very lucky but what’s in no doubt now is that Chelsea is now the Champion of Europe.
It’s a weird sentence to say; let alone write.
…they weren’t favourites…
The history of the competition has always lent some fairytale stories, whether it was Porto going all the way and winning it in 2004 or Monaco/Bayer Leverkusen making the finals in the early Noughties. To call Chelsea an underdog may be a bit trite considering the size of the investment oligarch Roman Abramovich invested into the club. Yet circumstances brought about a situation where they weren’t favourites; a middling season that ended with a sixth place finish and another FA Cup to go into the trophy room were insubstantial for a club like Chelsea looking to compete with the city of Manchester.
Despite what you may think of Chelsea as a club, or even the individuals it has housed over the years; in Europe they have been the perennial nearly men, incredibly unlucky: getting so close but losing in dramatic circumstances. Since 2003 umpteen managers have come and gone, all failed to reward Abramovich with the trophy he coveted. If QPR’s ascension to the Premier League was titled in a BBC doc as “The Four Year Plan”, the Chelsea’s bid to become European Champions should be called “The Nine Year Odyssey”.
…outclassed for the entirety…
In the cold light of day, this Chelsea team was perhaps the weakest out of the many teams the club have bankrolled. Ageing and full of players that were a) too young to make a difference, b) lacking form and fitness, c) just stupid (we’re looking at you John Terry), they were outclassed for the entirety of the match dousing the Munich goal with a paltry two shots in 120 minutes or so of football. Manuel Neuer may never have been as bored in a high profile match, well ever.
It was not so much a triumph of will or that Chelsea’s win was written in the stars (a million miles away) and that it was destiny, luck, fate that they would win but a sort of perseverance. A persistent presence, a bit like a bug that refuses to leave you on a hot day. Bayern should have been out of sight by the half-hour mark never mind half-time but the prolificacy of Robben, Muller and especially Gomez made it look like Bayern were suffering from a bout of stage fright: so eager to win but lacking composure in front of goal to calm their nerves.
…which way the pendulum would swing.
If anything, this win is down to Didier Drogba, Petr Cech and Ashley Cole, despite John Terry’s attempts to gatecrash the party. Whether it was blocking shots and expertly holding up play at the other end (Drogba’s control is immense, a far cry from the less refined player who joined the club 8 years ago), they were truly significant in determining which way the pendulum would swing. The rest of the team played well but, you felt they were playing within themselves, content to contain rather than to express themselves.
You could feel sorry for Bayern who now have another English team in their nightmares as they try to purge another dramatic defeat from their minds, having lost dramatically 13 years ago in sunny Catalonia: snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, you might say.
In the end it doesn’t really mean matter: Chelsea are Champions of Europe and no-one can take that away from them.