The Ivorian confirmed his place in Stamford Bridge legend with an 88th-minute equaliser before slotting home the winning penalty as the Blues were crowned the kings of EuropeCOMMENT
By Wayne Veysey at Allianz Arena
It was written in the stars. It had to be.
After Chelsea and Bayern Munich had traded nine penalties, the defining spot-kick was left to Didier Drogba, whose iron will and unequalled big-match aptitude had kept his team in the final. Indeed, the whole competition.
Half the Bayern team turned away as Drogba marked out his run, like a terrifying fast bowler tearing in from the Pavilion End.
The eruption of joy from the blue supporters, and the screams of despair from the red human wall behind Manuel Neuer’s goal, realised the worst fears of the players too scared to look.
In truth, Drogba scuffed his shot. But it didn’t matter as Neuer had dived the wrong way in any case.
However, there was seemingly never any doubt that the decisive moment of the match would be Drogba’s. Some higher provenance seemed to have ordained it.
The striker had scored the equaliser with two minutes of normal time left just when Bayern appeared to have made their almost total dominance of the 120 minutes count.
Stealing a march on his marker Jerome Boateng, who foolishly gave him extra momentum by pushing him in the back, Drogba arched his neck muscles and sent his header crashing above Neuer’s head.
It was a brilliant piece of forward play and completely in keeping with the Ivorian’s quite sensational finish to the season.
If the first European Cup triumph in Chelsea’s history is to be Drogba’s final farewell, what a way to say goodbye.
Even had the last two months been a damp squib, the Ivorian would have been remembered as the most formidable centre-forward in the club’s history.
By scoring in the Champions League and FA Cup finals and semi-finals, he has not so much secured his legend, but embellished it.
There was little of the usual cynical theatrics in the Allianz Arena – effectively an away match for his team – so what could be the final sighting of Drogba in Chelsea blue will be remembered for all his wonderful attributes.
The power, the aggression, the ability to keep an entire defence on its toes through sheer bloody-minded brilliance.
In Chelsea’s biggest match of the season, Drogba was barely involved for 88 minutes as his team-mates struggled to get the ball to him in dangerous positions.
The gap between the Ivorian and his attacking midfielders was, at times, big enough to park half a dozen buses.
Roberto Di Matteo, reckoning the only way stop Bayern was to defend deep and hound them, swamped the midfield with energy and power.
On this occasion, it wasn’t Drogba’s physical attributes that so impressed. It was his mental qualities.
On a night when Bayern hoarded all the best opportunities, Drogba got two. The first he scuffed after Neuer had mishandled a cross into his path. He didn’t make the same mistake twice.
For the marquee matches, Di Matteo has put his trust in the same old stagers that Chelsea know they will eventually have to live without. How that trust has been repaid.
The question is, how long can the likes of Drogba go on? Richard Attenborough, a Chelsea life-president, might admire the way in which the striker slips into character and full simulation mode.
But tomfoolery aside, he remains too irresistible to be dispensed with by a wave of Roman Abramovich’s hand and the owner’s best wishes.
A one-year contract has been on the table for months. Drogba wants two more years at a club he has decorated for seven. Further negotiations are due to begin next week.
Is there room for manoeuvre? Should there be? On an evening such as this, Drogba looked like he could go on performing brilliantly well into his mid-30s.
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