Before the kick-off, Bayern Munich's fans had unveiled a huge banner of the European Cup, along with a set of giant messages: 'Unser stadt, unser stadion, unser pokal' (our town, our stadium, our cup). It was a graceless statement from a side enjoying home advantage, and Chelsea approached the tie like men determined to ram their rivals' assumptions down their throats, forcing them to endure first an ordeal by exasperation and then one by penalties.
For 83 minutes, until Thomas Muller stole in behind Ashley Cole to apply his head to Franck Ribery's cross, it worked. And then, instead of folding in the face of such a calamity, Chelsea struck back with the sort of majestic blow that Didier Drogba seems to reserve for such occasions. And it was Drogba who, at the end of an excruciating shootout, applied the coup de grace that made his team the first from London to win the trophy.
Until Muller struck, every minute without a goal for Bayern had seemed like a victory for Chelsea. The tactic that proved so unexpectedly effective against Barcelona -- overcrowd the central defence, force the enemy wide and throw yourselves in the way of everything -- was the one selected for use once again as Chelsea worked their way towards the hoped-for climax of an extraordinary period in their history.
Two and a half months ago, remember, this was a team heading for the knackers' yard. Then Roberto di Matteo replaced Andre Villas-Boas, and everything changed. In 20 games under the interim manager they won 13, drawn four and lost three. Something has been going right, and Di Matteo saw no reason to tinker with an approach that had given back to his players the feeling that they were the masters of their own destiny.
Whether or not Drogba was making his last appearance in the colours of a club he joined in 2004, his goal demonstrated that his transfer fee was the best £24m Roman Abramovich has ever spent. The stupid foul on Ribery with which he conceded a penalty three minutes into extra-time was another matter, and could have been even more costly, but Cech spared his blushes by guessing Arjen Robben's intentions.
Sunday Indo Sport