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Chelsea breach final frontier

sports Updated: May 21, 2012 01:37 IST
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Chelsea cleared the final hurdle in a season of never-ending challenges when they beat Bayern Munich 4-3 on penalties in the German team's Allianz Arena stadium to be crowned European Champions for the first time on Saturday.

In what may be the final act of his Chelsea career, Didier Drogba sealed victory in a tension-packed Champions League final with the last kick of the shootout to clinch victory after he had headed Chelsea's equaliser two minutes from time to force a 1-1 draw and send the game to extra time.

Bayern, just as in 1999 when they lost 2-1 to Manchester United who scored two goals in stoppage time, were within touching distance of the cup thanks to an 83rd-minute header from Thomas Mueller.

Haunting history
But history came back to haunt them as Drogba snatched victory from their grasp with a late equaliser to set up his team to victory against all the odds.

Even in extra time Bayern had a golden opportunity to seal the win but Arjen Robben's penalty was saved by Petr Cech after Drogba fouled Franck Ribery to concede the spot kick.

Bayern skipper Philipp Lahm even won the toss to decide which end the shootout would take place and it was held in front of the Bayern fans.

Chelsea's success, built on the millions invested in the club over the last nine years by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, came on another night of unlikely glory in a season that seemed to be going nowhere under coach Andre Villas-Boas who was sacked in March. Chelsea were rejuvenated by interim coach Roberto Di Matteo who not only steered them to this success but also won FA Cup two weeks ago.

Whether he gets the job permanently remains to be seen, but there is little more he could have done to prove he is the man for the job. He ended the campaign not only with the two cups, but also making Chelsea the first London club to win the trophy since the competition began 57 years ago and guaranteed to play Champions League football again next season.

The match itself was similar to Chelsea's astonishing semi-final victory over Barcelona with both successes built on solid steel rearguard actions against sides that dominated them territorially and with possession of the ball.