In what could be his final match with Chelsea, Didier Drogba proved to be Mr. Clutch and brought the London club their first Champions League victory in a game that went to a penalty shootout and included more twists than an M. Night Shyamalan movie. But Drogba was far from the only key performer for Chelsea as they overcame a tumultuous season and criticism of their defensive style of play in the biggest way possible.
Playing Bayern Munich in Munich was always going to be a daunting challenge and the situation turned almost impossible when Bayern finally scored the match's first goal with a flukey bouncing header from Thomas Muller just seven minutes from full time after missing chance after chance despite Chelsea's defensive failings. Down 1-0 in the 83rd minute in a hostile stadium and with little offensive bite to speak of, Chelsea didn't wilt. Instead, they once again showed the resolve that led them past Benfica, Napoli and Barcelona in the previous rounds, came out of their defensive bunker and attacked with the necessary desperation.
And in the 88th minute, off their first corner kick of the match (Bayern ended up with 20), Didier Drogba propelled a bullet of a header into the top of the net for a shock equalizer.
Having stolen the momentum and put a bit of fear into their frustrated hosts, Chelsea seemed to have snatched control of the match. Early in the first period of extra time, however, Drogba was the one to surrender that control when he was shown a yellow card for a foul in the box that gave Bayern a penalty.
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But Chelsea's other hero, helmeted goalkeeper extraordinaire Petr Cech, saved the penalty kick from former teammate Arjen Robben to keep his side alive. From there, both teams slipped into a nervous hesitancy as extra time drifted away and the match was forced into a penalty shootout to decide the champions of Europe. This brought back the nightmares of Chelsea's failure to beat Manchester United in a rain-soaked shootout in the 2008 Champions League final and those bad vibes were soon made momentarily worse.
Again Chelsea handed Bayern the advantage when their first shooter, Juan Mata, had his weak shot saved by Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer. But again Chelsea kept their focus. After trading a few successful penalties -- including one from Neuer himself -- it was Bayern's turn to slip up and Cech saved Ivica Olic's attempt. Ashley Cole blasted his in for Chelsea and then the game took yet another vicious turn.
Bastian Schwiensteiger, who scored the winning penalty to put Bayern past Real Madrid in the semifinals, hit the post. He immediately covered his face with his shirt to hide his tears while Didier Drogba stepped up to the penalty spot and put away the winning shot for Chelsea (1:10 into the video).
Whether the 34-year-old Ivory Coast captain ends up signing a big-money deal with a Chinese club or stays with Chelsea a little longer, this was Didier Drogba's defining moment on the pitch. He's been a hero off the field -- credited with ending a civil war in his homeland and pouring millions of dollars of his own money into building hospitals where they're needed them most -- for some time and now he has the finishing touch on a glittering eight years with Chelsea to make him one on the pitch as well.
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