Bayern Munich produced one of the most epic chokes in soccer history by throwing away the chance at an emotional Champions League victory in front of its own fans.
The German side allowed Chelsea to equalize with just two minutes left in regulation time, then missed one penalty kick in extra time and two more in a dramatic shootout to see the trophy of soccer's premier club tournament slip agonizingly from its grasp.
All this took place at Bayern's own Allianz Arena, which had been named as the venue for the final more than a year ago. With a victory, Bayern could have become the first team to win the tournament in its own stadium since the inception of the Champions League 20 years ago.
"Anything can happen when a game gets tight," Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo said. "You have to try to put as much pressure on the opponent as you can, and then see what happens."
German teams, both the country's club sides and national team, have a reputation for being the strongest mentally in world soccer. The German national side has not lost a penalty shootout in international competition for more than 30 years.
However, Bayern's nerve failed it right when it mattered most, and the club now faces a miserable summer having lost the title that it targeted intently at the start of the season. It also missed out on the German Bundesliga championship and the German Cup.
The choke began almost as soon as Bayern appeared to set itself firmly on the course for Champions League glory. Thomas Mueller's powerful header to give the German squad a 1-0 with just seven minutes remaining in regulation time should have been enough with Chelsea struggling to gain any meaningful possession.
But once ahead, Bayern lost its concentration and failed to adapt to Chelsea's new-found urgency. And when a cross fired from the right found Drogba unmarked, the Ivory Coast striker left goalkeeper Manuel Neuer with no chance with his rocket of a header.
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As extra time began, Bayern tried to establish control once more and gave itself another chance to take the lead. Drogba fouled Franck Ribery inside the area, but Arjen Robben, who is usually calm and collected, allowed the pressure of the situation to get to him and scuffed his effort. The tame penalty kick was easily saved by Chelsea keeper Petr Cech.
The shootout itself was pure drama. Phillip Lahm and Mario Gomez put Bayern comfortably ahead while Juan Mata missed for Chelsea. From then on, though, Chelsea was flawless from the spot, while Bayern crumbled.
Ivica Olic never looked confident and Cech easily pushed away his strike. Then, when Bastian Schweinsteiger crashed his drive against the post, it was left to Drogba to seal the title by sending Neuer the wrong way.
"I guessed the right way five times and I felt comfortable with the penalties," Cech said. "I knew it would just be a matter of time before I got my hands to one. Our guys did an amazing job with our penalties. We believed in ourselves and never let the pressure get to us."
At the end, the Bayern players could only slump to the ground and nurse the pain of having seen a golden opportunity for a memorable triumph slip through their fingers.
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