Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

One Swift Kick Brings Years of Frustration Tumbling Down

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

One Swift Kick Brings Years of Frustration Tumbling Down

Article excerpt

Didier Drogba scored the tying goal with two minutes left in regulation for Chelsea, then converted the decisive penalty kick against Bayern Munich.

Didier Drogba gave Chelsea life, then nearly caused its demise in the final of the Champions League.

Given a reprieve after his mistake in extra time, Drogba converted the penalty kick Saturday night against Bayern Munich that gave the Blues the most coveted title in club soccer for the first time.

Drogba, a 34-year-old striker from Ivory Coast, brought Chelsea back from the brink on a goal with just two minutes remaining in regulation to tie the score at 1-1. Then, after 30 tense minutes of overtime, Drogba scored the final and deciding penalty to give Chelsea the victory, 4-3, in the shootout.

"I've been here for eight years and always so close and so far at the same time," said Drogba, who may not return to London, as his contract expires next month. "Today, we have it, we have this cup. The cup is going back to Stamford Bridge, and this was the best feeling ever."

The game had all the drama that a major final demanded, and it concluded with a title that ended years of frustration in European play for Chelsea. The victory must have eased the memory of Chelsea's defeat in the 2008 final to Manchester United, also in a shootout. And it stifled the retirement-home jokes about the team's key players, whose ability to compete in their 30s at the top level of soccer was often questioned.

An ecstatic Frank Lampard, 33, who has played for Chelsea since 2001, carried the trophy onto the field, streamers in Chelsea blue and white tied to the handles of the cup. "In Moscow, it was very difficult, very painful for the players, the club, for the fans," Drogba said of the 2008 defeat. "Today, we managed to change it, and again it was an amazing game, a crazy game."

The defeat was especially bitter for Bayern. It not only had to watch as Chelsea celebrated on its home field, but it also controlled play throughout, taking 35 shots to Chelsea's 9.

For more than 80 minutes, the championship game followed a predictable script. Bayern had the ball. Bayern got close to the Chelsea goal. A swarm of blue-clad defenders smothered the attack.

After 82 scoreless minutes, the game seemed destined for penalty kicks, and it was. But the path to getting there was unexpectedly thrilling.

In the 83rd minute, Bayern finally made the most of one of its chances when Thomas Muller bounced a header off the grass and over Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech.

"Thomas!" screamed the announcer. "Muller!" the crowd answered -- once, twice and a third time.

There were seven minutes to go and the dream of a European title at its home stadium seemed closer and closer as time wound down. Bayern dominated Chelsea on corner kicks throughout, taking 20 to Chelsea's 1. But Drogba made sure the only corner was one that counted. …

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