Bayern München 1 – 1 Chelsea – Wasteful Bayern lose on penalties

by Cristian Nyari

Chelsea came from behind to beat Bayern in Munich in dramatic fashion to lift the Champions League trophy for the first time in club history. A late Drogba equalizer in regular time canceled Thomas Müller’s earlier goal to take the match to extra time and eventually penalties where Olic and Schweinsteiger’s misses set up Drogba’s winner. Bayern created a record amount of chances throughout the game but lacked the finishing touch and missed a penalty in extra time while Chelsea defended well and took their chances when they came. In the end the pressure to win it at home was too much for Bayern and it resulted in their 5th European Cup final loss.

Formations and Lineups

Both teams had to deal with numerous suspensions to key players. Bayern were without Badstuber, Alaba and Gustavo. In their place started Tymoshchuk, Contento and Müller which mean Kroos dropped next to Schweinsteiger in central midfield. Di Matteo too was without some key defenders, namely Terry and Ivanovic, who were replaced by Cahill and Bosingwa.

The big surprise for Chelsea was Di Matteo’s inclusion of Bertrand, the 22 year old has only had 7 Premier League appearances this season and none in the Champions League. Was he to play a defensive role against Robben and Lahm or add some pace to their attacks in hopes of pushing Bayern’s duo back?

Both coaches fielded 4-2-3-1 formations although Di Matteo’s defensive shape resembled more of a 4-5-1 or 4-4-1-1 instead with Bertrand and Kalou playing closer to their fullbacks than their striker. Mata was the counter attacking outlet behind lone striker Drogba. The question going into the match was whether Bayern could break down Chelsea’s organized defense all while preventing yet another team from exploiting them on the counter attack.

Bayern dominance 

The first 45 minutes went as many predicted, Bayern with the majority of possession and Chelsea sitting back looking to counter like they did against Barcelona. Like Barcelona, Bayern created several chances but were either denied by poor finishing or excellent defending. Robben in particular was active in that department, recording a game high 15 shots by the end of the match. Unfortunately for him and his team, most of those were either blocked or misplaced. His best of those probably came in the 21st minute when he made a trademark cut inside and forced a great reaction save by Cech.

Because so much of Bayern’s play is concentrated out wide, Ribery too saw a lot of the ball in this match. Bosingwa was put in a lot of one-on-one situations against Ribery which meant Contento had the space to overlap. Another one of Bayern’s best chances came as a result of such an overlap when his cross found Müller who volleyed the ball just wide. Müller was again involved before the break when he and Robben combined on the right to set up Gomez with a golden opportunity. The striker received the ball, dummied Cahill and had the goal just meters in front of him but instead shot over the bar.

Passes completed

Chelsea’s first shot on goal came 36 minutes when Kalou received the ball on the right and released a shot from just inside the box but it was a comfortable save for Neuer. Di Matteo’s plan seemed to work, absorb the pressure and hit on the break. Bayern have been vulnerable against counter attacking sides throughout the season and despite Chelsea not seeing much of the ball Bayern did look unsettled whenever their opponents ventured forward.  It also became clear that Bertrand was given the start to help Cole defend against the fast Robben and adventurous Lahm. That said, Bayern did everything right in the first half and it seemed just a matter of time before they made all their chances count. Or did it?

Müller and Drogba the key players

The narrative remained the same in the second half. Robben had more attempts, Bayern had more possession and Chelsea continued to defend deep in their own half. Ribery had an offside goal ruled off before the hour mark but that did not deter Di Matteo’s tactics in the slightest. Kroos, Müller, Robben and Ribery all had opportunities but just could not get past what was turning into an impenetrable blue wall. For a moment it seemed as fate itself had put up that wall but Müller would soon change that.

With Bayern’s rather rigid direct approach, it was easy for Chelsea to sit back, assign their markers and anticipate the play. The pattern was simple. Bayern brought the ball forward, passed it around in front of Chelsea’s box before pushing it out wide to either Robben and Ribery who eventually lost the ball or squandered a chance. Kroos was off on his shooting and Schweinsteiger was hesitant to even try. Ribery and Robben were almost always double teamed and Gomez had an unusually poor run out. Mikel also had an outstanding performance for Chelsea and ensured that Kroos and Schweinsteiger had no way through the middle. The lone unpredictable variable was Thomas Müller, whose erratic movement and awkward positions were difficult to read for Chelsea defenders. His ability to pop up in unexpected positions also lead to Bayern’s openere after Kroos saw him ghosting into position from the right. His header was bounced off the ground and behind Cech.

Duels won

The goal seemed to justify all of Bayern’s hard work but a little lapse in concentration would begin to unravel it. Five minutes later Chelsea won their first and only corner of the game. Bayern had 20 and nothing to show for it. Mata’s corner on the other hand was the beginning of Bayern’s downfall, as the Ivorian beat his marker and headed past an unsuspecting Neuer. Just like that Chelsea were level. The equalizer made Chelsea even more defensive with Drobga defending quite vociferously. In fact, the striker won more duels than any other player on the pitch (26) and was a big factor in maintaining the draw well into extra time.

Bayern collapse in extra time

Drogba nearly turned from hero to villain when he brought down Ribery in the box in extra time but Cech pulled off the save of the match to deny Robben from the spot. Olic’s miss minutes later added to Bayern’s frustrations. It was an ominous sign. Already physically fatigued, Bayern players now appeared mentally deflated as well as they went into the penalty shootout.

Neuer gave Bayern a big advantage after saving Mata’s penalty but misses from Schweinsteiger and Olic and perfect conversions from Lampard, Cole, Luiz and finally Drogba capped off another nightmare European Cup final for Bayern.

Final Verdict

It is hard for Bayern to look back and not blame themselves after all the chances they created. Along with their missed penalty in extra time, no other side created more chances in a single match this season. Bayern had 41 shots compared to Chelsea’s 9 and just one goal from open play to show for it. Only 2 of their 13 shots in the first half hit the target, an indication of their harmless domination. The finishing was the biggest issue but one cannot help but question Bayern’s initial approach. Their direct and repetitive attacking patterns played into Chelsea’s hands like they did in the 2010 final against Inter Milan. Towards the end of the second half, Bayern were left scratching their heads for a way past Chelsea’s backline, sending in cross after cross, corner after corner, shot after shot, with little to show for it.

The mental strength of the team also has to be questioned after conceding so soon after going up in a match of this magnitude. Another talking point is Heynckes’ substitution of Müller after his goal, arguably Bayern’s most dangerous player and the only one seemingly able to unlock Chelsea’s defense. Like Leverkusen in 2002, Bayern finish runners up in all three competitions and like Roma in 1984, they lost the Champions League final in their own stadium on penalties.

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Author:Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari
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