Chelsea and Bayern Munich end Spanish dominance in the Champions League race.
Published: Monday, April 30, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 30, 2012 17:04
After two thrilling semifinal match ups, Bayern Munich and Chelsea came through and will face each other in the Champions League final on May 19th. It is Chelsea’s second appearance in the final and they’ve never won. Bayern, on the other hand, has four titles in eight appearances.
Chelsea took on reigning champion Barcelona and beat them 1-0 at home while fighting tooth and nail to hold on to their lead in Catalonia. Both teams have struggled in their domestic leagues and desperately needed the Champions League title to redeem themselves. Ever since Roman Abromovich came to London with a fistful of rubles in 2003, it has been his deepest wish to take Chelsea to the highest plateau of European soccer. They came close in 2008 but lost to Manchester United on penalties. Ironically, Chelsea has only reached the Champions League final when being led by an interim coach.
It is almost comical that Avram Grant and Roberto di Matteo have been able to take the Blues past the semifinal stage while heavyweights like Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink and Felipe Scolari never did. This Chelsea team is not as deep as in previous years but they still have a starting eleven that can compete with anyone and they have the match winners who can decide the title race in their favor.
Barcelona is falling behind Real Madrid in La Liga and lost their first home game in 55 games in El Clasico a week ago. There is definitely something off about this Barca team and the 2nd semifinal leg was a manifestation of that. The Barcelona offense was slow and stale not fast and precise the way we’re used to see them.
Chelsea put every man they had behind the ball and parked the bus. Instead of shooting from long range Barcelona opted for getting the ball to the wings and cross it. This was a bad idea considering Chelsea’s players had a height advantage. Time and time again we’ve seen Messi penetrate defenses but against Chelsea he was neutralized. To make matters worse he missed a penalty that could have put the game away for Barcelona.
Chelsea proved their worth by beating Barcelona but when they face Bayern in the final they will have to do without several key players. Captain John Terry was sent off for and Raul Meireles was booked, making sure they are both suspended. Maybe that’s for the better considering the last time Terry was in a Champions League final he ended up missing a decisive penalty in the dramatic penalty shootout.
People will be talking about Fernando Torres’ dramatic game winning goal for a long time. The Spanish striker received the ball at midfield and ran uncontested downfield, dribbled the goalkeeper and put the ball into the empty net.
The contest between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid was a lot closer. Even after 90 minutes in Munich and 120 in Madrid, it was still tied and the teams had to go to a penalty shootout to determine the winner. Just like he’s done before, Cristiano Ronaldo missed when it mattered the most. But most of the blame is going to be put on Sergio Ramos.
The Spanish defender had the chance to tie the game on Madrid’s fourth penalty but his shot went high above the crossbar. Schweinsteiger had the honor of clinching the game winner for Bayern. After many mediocre results in the 2000s Bayern are finally back in the company of Europe’s finest. This is their second final in three years and the German juggernaut might be heading back to their glory days. It doesn’t hurt that the final will be played at Bayern’s home field Allianz Arena. It’s a guarantee that most of the fans will be rooting for the Bavarians.
A trend we have seen lately, whether it’s the World Cup, Euro or Champions League, is that finals tend to be anticlimactic. Teams know how much is at stake and don’t want to take unnecessary risks. As a result the games tend to be erratic and end with a predictable 1-0 victory or a penalty shootout.
Both Chelsea and Bayern are equipped for these games and proved it by outdueling the two most potent offenses in the world. My prediction is that Bayern will have most of the possession and Chelsea will be fine with defending for most of the game and wait for their opportunity. The loss of Terry is going to be significant. Bayern is not as undersized as Barcelona and can hurt them through the air.