19th May 2012. This is a day that will forever be engraved in every Chelsea fan’s heart. This was the day Chelsea beat Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. This was the day that showed football in all its glory and passion. This was the day when Chelsea became the champions of Europe. This was the day a dream became a reality.
Roman Abhravomic bought the club back in 2003 and this ushered in a new era at Chelsea. A decade of success followed, with the Blues claiming every domestic cup available in England, and dominating the English game along with Manchester United. However, the most prestigious European trophy continued to be absent from the trophy cabinet at the Bridge, with Chelsea coming close in 2008. Then, in 2012, something happened that no Chelsea fan had ever imagined possible that year. The Champions League dream became a reality.
The 2011-2012 season was a tumultuous season for Chelsea, with Andres Villas Boas getting sacked a few months into the season. The reins were handed over to Roberto Di Matteo, a former Blue himself, but with no proven credentials on the big stage as a manager. His first job in the Champions League was to get Chelsea out of the group stage, and this came in the form of a must win game against Valencia. The game ended 3-0 to Chelsea, with Drogba netting a brace, and Chelsea were through to the knockout stages for the ninth consecutive season.
The knockout stage is where the miracles took place. Yes, miracles. Not just one, but three massive miracles that drove Chelsea to the top of Europe. First it was Napoli in the round of sixteen, then it was Barcelona in the semifinals and ultimately it was Bayern Munich in the final. These teams were arguably the best in their respective countries, and any Chelsea fan will tell you that those teams were a step ahead of the Blues. That Chelsea team was in disarray in the league, but they somehow managed to win in Europe. The road to glory was not marked with beautiful football and scintillating goals, instead it was highlighted by dogged displays, with backs against the wall for almost the entire game. Then, out of nowhere, Chelsea would steal a goal. That is how they won the greatest competition in Europe.
As a Chelsea fan, watching each knockout game was the most stressful thing. This was especially so against Barcelona in the semifinals. On paper, the Barcelona team should have crushed Chelsea, with players such as Puyol, Messi, Iniesta and Xavi. They dominated Chelsea across both legs, with almost the entire game being played in the Chelsea half. Chance after chance, shot after shot, and somehow they did not score. This was down to sheer determination and hard work shown by the Chelsea team. Each player defended the goal with their lives, whether it was Ashley Cole hooking the ball off the line, or John Terry throwing himself to block shots, or even Didier Drogba heading clear dangerous set pieces. Petr Cech too, who made uncountable and invaluable saves across both legs. Each player played out of their skins.
The names I just mentioned were probably the second biggest reason Chelsea won the Champions League (the biggest reason being LUCK!). Drogba, Terry, Lampard, Cole and Cech formed the spine that lead the team to victory. They instilled a fighting mentality amongst the team too, by leading the way week in week out. It These players embodied what it meant to the club and what they were fighting for, but let’s not forget the rest of the team, because without each of those players, the dream would still be a dream. Players such as Ramires, Luiz, Bosingwa, Kalou and Malouda fought equally hard, scored equally important goals and never gave up. They played well above their potential, and forever engraved their names in Chelsea’s history.
The final was Chelsea vs Bayern, at the home of the Bavaria. The fairytale was supposed to end, with luck expected to run out and Chelsea being brought back to Earth. But somehow, the luck and determination kept Chelsea alive. The bus had been parked once again, as shots hit Chelsea’s goal frame, Cech made saves, and penalties were missed. Then, the inevitable happened. Muller scored in the 80th minute, and every Chelsea fans worst nightmare had just come true. With Chelsea fans in tears, Drogba changed everything. He headed in Juan Mata’s corner in the 88th minute and dragged Chelsea into extra time and to the penalty shootout. It was only fitting that in his last game for Chelsea, he would take the deciding penalty and calmly slot it home. Tears of sorrow turned to tears of joy.
The dream had been achieved in the most unthinkable way possible. It was not the most ideal way to win the Champions League, but Chelsea fans don’t care. That day will go down as the greatest day in the club’s history so far. Luck, destiny and determination drove Chelsea to victory, as they defied all the odds. Was that the best team in Chelsea’s history? Absolutely not. Will we witness something similar again? Probably not. The 2011-12 Champions League season will always be looked back upon as the luckiest and weirdest tournament in history, but every Chelsea fan will shed a tear when you talk about it. This tear symbolizes the passion and love for the club, and the determination that helped make this dream a reality.