20 Times. Avid United fan through the hard times and the good. Still believes Wes Brown is the real hero of Old Trafford.
Backdrop: Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich were ranked by FIFA as being the fifth most valuable football side in the world going into 2012, and one look at their playing squad would show you exactly why. From a defence featuring legendary figures such as Manuel Neuer, Philip Lahm and Jerome Boateng to the hugely successful midfield featuring Bastian Schweinsteiger, David Alaba, Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos and the now-legendary frontline trio of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and the 40-goal scorer Mario Gomez, it was a side that simply commanded respect.
Perhaps surprisingly however, the 2011/12 season was a barren one in terms of Munich's trophy haul. Under legendary manager Jupp Heynckes, the side fell just short of Jurgen Klopp's Borussia Dortmund side in the Bundesliga before succumbing to a DFB-Pokal Final loss, also to Dortmund.
And although they were on the verge of a famous treble winning season the following year, these were perhaps the very first signs for the Bavarian faithful that there might be something foul in the air going into what was, effectively, a home advantaged final against West London side Chelsea.
A Team in Turmoil
If Bayern Munich were a team soon to be at the top of their game, Chelsea were anything but. Premier League-winning manager Carlo Ancelotti had left the club in 2011 and had been replaced by former Porto boss Andre Villas-Boas.
Dressing room discontent was rife under Villas-Boas however and the then three-time Premier League champions quickly fell by the wayside in the title race. Things were not much better in the Champions League, with Villas-Boas being dismissed by Chelsea following a damaging 3-1 away defeat against Napoli in late February.
The instigators of Villas-Boas were senior Chelsea players John Terry, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard, who recently began his own stint as Chelsea boss. It was an unceremonious end for the Portuguese boss, who was replaced by his assistant coach, Roberto Di Matteo.
What followed was a scarcely believable resurgence under the Italian, coming from behind to knock out Napoli, Benfica and even claim an infamous victory over the then-dominant Barcelona side under Pep Guardiola at the Camp Nou.
Resurgence or not however, it is hard to quantify just how against the odds Chelsea were going into the final in Munich.
Torres' Infamous Goal vs. Pep Guardiola's Barcelona
The Talking Points
Both Bayern and Chelsea had been hit by some seriously big blows before even kicking off in Munich. The ever-present trio of David Alaba, Holger Badstuber and Luis Gustavo all missed the match, with Chelsea without key players Branislav Ivanovic, Raul Meireles, Ramires and even captain John Terry.
Despite a plea from player union group FIFPro, John Terry's red card against Barcelona in the semi-finals meant that he would be missing the game, though the ban didn't extend to him lifting the trophy should Chelsea win.
A whopping ten players in Bayern's squad had been a part of the side that had lost to Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan side in the 2010 Champions League final, with eight Chelsea players playing in their loss to Manchester United in 2008. Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba had all started that match.
1-0 Bayern Munich
Thomas Muller: 83 Minutes
To say that Bayern Munich dominated the vast majority of the match would be a total, total understatement. By the time Thomas Muller opened the scoring, they had over 56% of the ball, had registered a mighty 16 corners and had 23 attempts on goal in total. In comparison, Chelsea had five attempts to their name and zero corners.
Arjen Robben and Mario Gomez had been particularly wasteful for the Bavarian giants throughout the game, and it looked like the tension might spill over into the ground at one point.
However, a pinpoint cross from the ever-reliable Toni Kroos landed nicely towards Thomas Muller, who headed the ball onto the ground and subsequently over Petr Cech. As much as Chelsea had been admirably resilient, it all looked to have been for nothing as Bayern lept into a 1-0 lead.
1-1—A Miracle Back on the Cards
Didier Drogba: 88 Minutes
Chelsea were down, out and in desperate, desperate need of some inspiration from a hero. Step up, Didier Drogba.
With just two minutes plus added time left on the clock, Juan Mata delivered a corner into the box that would have been easily dealt with in any other game. However, there was something in the Bavarian air and Drogba was not about to let his second attempt at a Champions League title go wasting.
Sprinting past Jerome Boateng, Drogba lept up and struck. Towering above anyone around him and angling his head beautifully, the Ivorian striker punched the ball into the back of the net before goalkeeper Manuel Neuer could even move. Somehow, Chelsea were level.
Extra Time: 1-1
Going to Penalties
However, the perfect fairytale match was nearly derailed by the man who had worked so hard to put it back into touch.
With Bayern Munich once again dominating proceedings during the extra half an hour of football before a dreaded penalty shootout, it was clear that Chelsea were just desperate to bring proceedings to a close.
Chelsea hero Didier Drogba was the man who almost blew the final apart when he hacked away at Franck Ribery in the 97th minute. The Frenchman was injured, but Bayern had a penalty which would have surely won them the match.
If Chelsea fans didn't believe they were going to win the game before the penalty, they absolutely should have done after it however. The usually ever-reliable Arjen Robben stepped up to the mark, and blasted it straight at the diving Petr Cech, squandering Bayern's best and final chance at wrapping things up.
Penalty Shootout: Chelsea Win 3-4
Drogba The Hero Again
The perfect fairytale came around full circle in typical style during the subsequent penalty shootout between the two sides. With Philip Lahm dispatching his penalty, it was almost scripted that Chelsea would miss their first attempt, with Juan Mata's weak shot being saved by Manuel Neuer.
Chelsea were, once again, thrown a lifeline as Croatian striker Ivica Olic, who was kicking his last ball for Bayern Munich, sent his kick straight at Cech. Ashley Cole's successful penalty sent the shootout into sudden death, with Bastian Schweinsteiger blinking first and leaving it all to one man: Didier Drogba.
Of course, the Ivorian scored.
On the biggest stage, against all the odds, Chelsea had completed one of the biggest miracles ever seen in football. The game would live in the memories of every football fan forever and would leave those Chelsea and Bayern players in the history books forever.
Chelsea's Winning Moments As They Happened
© 2019 James Metcalfe
James Metcalfe (author) from Worthing on October 21, 2019:
Hey Patrick! Awesome, same here! Going to be trying to bash out a few more articles like this in the coming weeks so hopefully you enjoy!
Patrick Tomlin on October 20, 2019:
Been a soccer fan all my life