Rafa Benítez Blog RSS Rafa Benítez Blog

May 2012
This time yes, by Rafa Benitez

General Articles

Rafa Benítez

This time, no, this time the UEFA Champions League did pass by, and the prized trophy went to Chelsea on penalties to wipe out any bad memories. They had to wait for the last kick in the final round of spot-kicks and it was converted by Didier Drogba to give Roman Abramovich his dream Champions League trophy and it also qualifies them for next season’s competition.

It has been many years of consecutive attempts, almost grasping it on occasion, like in Moscow but at last Chelsea have the cup they wanted. And because football can be unpredictable it has probably come when they least expected it and in the most difficult circumstances. From that poor result in Napoli that they had to overturn up to the tie against Barcelona, it looked like they would have to do it the hard way. And as if that wasn’t enough they had to play the final on Bayern Munich’s home ground, their opponent in the final, with their fans behind them in a perfect situation. But football has these ingredients, and that’s what is great about it and why it excites us. Roberto Di Matteo who took over the team after Andre Villas-Boas left, has won what no other Chelsea manager has won until now, the Champions League Final. My sincere congratulations go to him. To him and the players, the directors and the fans and the rest of the club. And at the same time, and with the same feelings, my respect, sympathy and best wishes go to the other great club, its players, staff, directors and fans, a European giant, Bayern Munich. In my time as a coach, I have won and lost a Champions League Final so I know how they both feel and I can put myself in their shoes.

Having said that I don’t know if we can say too much about the match itself or if it’s the right time to do it. I think that for those who read our website we should do it so here goes.

Bayern Munich 1 (3)-Chelsea 1 (4)

From the start Di Matteo’s Chelsea went with a 1-4-2-3-1 with young Ryan Bertrand on the left of midfield. They were dropping off but not as deep or compact as they were against Barcelona. But it looked like the same plan: drop off and counter attack. Maybe they thought they had to do that to stop Bayern who pressured from the start. They found it difficult to keep the ball, lost it quickly and had little success in the counter attack. Their first shot on goal didn’t come until the 36th minute.

As for Bayern, they were using 1-4-2-3-1. They were dominating the game, had possession of the ball with figures of 64%, were forcing corners finishing with 20 of them, and were getting in shots, 26 in all. But were also regaining the ball fairly quickly.

As for the movements of the players, Ryan Bertrand was supporting Ashley Cole in defence against Arjen Robben and the sporadic attacks of Philipp Lahm in the first half. As well, Chelsea were organised in defence and tried to counter attack, mostly without success or just played long to Drogba but also with little effect.

The Chelsea midfield, Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel, were keeping an eye on players between lines. In theory, Thomas Müller was the player in that area but Robben and Frank Ribery were also changing positions with him giving the Chelsea midfielders something to think about.

The German side had Bastian Schweinsteiger often dropping deep to receive and keep possession, although certainly Toni Kroos was helping him organise their play. They moved the ball patiently and well getting in to their opponent’s box quite easily. If Chelsea went forward a bit more and lost the ball, their counter attacks were launched quickly.

Defensively, there was only one mistake by Anatoliy Tymoshchuk in the 36th minute. The Ukrainian pushed out to press between the lines a bit too much and left Drogba on his own to control the ball and be 1v1 with Manuel Neuer. But he lost the ball as Philipp Lahm got back and shut off the danger well.

The mobility and interchange of positions by the 3 players in the second line was the key to getting through in attack, and when they got the ball to Ribery and Robben, who were often both on the same flank, they caused Chelsea the most problems.

In the Chelsea side, only a Salomon Kalou shot stood out, after a good move by Lampard with a pass to Drogba, but Kalou saw his shot saved by Neuer.

In summary of the first half, Bayern had control of the possession and more penetration, and although they were precise in the final third and around the box, but they lacked the same precision in their finishing.

Second Half

The second half began with two Bayern fairly dangerous counter attacks but showed mainly the Chelsea plan after the break to have more of the ball and get forward.

There were more options in the game and more space in midfield, the ball was changing hands more and the Chelsea defence was more exposed, with the two midfielders getting forward more.

A goal by Ribery was disallowed for offside in the 53rd minute. The referee judged that the shot from Robben was deflected by the defender, giving Ribery, in an offside position, the chance to finish but as I said in did not count.

Gradually, Bayern began to control the match once more, and were more dangerous when they regained near to Chelsea’s box. Their corners were not causing problems, taking a few short to vary the play but still without success. We saw a chance for Ribery stopped by Cech, a dangerous Kroos shot and a difficult chance for Drogba to finish from Neuer’s error.

Then we had the substitutions. Malouda came on for Bertrand who had done well trying to prevent the Munich attacks which had given them 23 shots to Chelsea’s 5, and 16 corners to none for the London team.

In the same minute, Robben, Ribery and Kroos were all on the left and Kroos’s cross was finished by Müller at the back post which looked as though it might win the game as there was so little time left. But a final is a final.

Di Matteo brought on Fernando Torres for Kalou and the Spaniard went on the right, bringing more pace and greater intensity to the game which lifted the team.

Heynckes brought on Van Buyten for the goalscorer Müller, Van Buyten having recovered just in time for the final after injury in January. They wanted to give themselves better protection in the air in the last few minutes but again, as it happens in football, at the only corner Chelsea had, in the 88th minute, Drogba helped by an unintentional block by Lampard on Boateng, who was marking the Ivory Coast striker. Scored the goal that took them to extra time.

Extra Time

So after a short break to rehydrate, the 30 extra minutes beagn with a counter attack by Fernando Torres. Next a key part of the game, at least in my opinion, Drogba’s foul on Ribery for the penalty and Ribery had to go off injured.

Robben took it and Cech saved it and this gave his team the impetus to look for the win.

Bayern’s Ivica Olic, who had come on for Ribery, had a great chance when he passed to Van Buyten in the 6 yard box who could not quite get to the ball.

From then on, Bayern kept on pressing and Chelsea was defending intensely until it went to penalties as the scoreboard indicated a draw in the Allianz Arena.

A game of chance

And so we went to penalties to determine the winner. To make the final even more tense, Bayern went in front and even Manuel Neuer, the goalkeeper took one of the penalties and converted the third. But as we all know, Drogba put away the last one and Chelsea won the Champions League in his second final. To go back to the start, congratulations to the Blues for this momentous and longed-for win and our sympathies and best wishes to Bayern at a difficult time. Europe has a new Champion.