Sometimes the journey is greater than the destination.
Over the last nine months, Jupp Heynckes’ team played out a magnificent campaign, the Bavarians fought like a cornered tiger (you know, when it is at its most dangerous), rebounding spectacularly from a disappointing year at home and abroad. There were times this season when it looked like it was all over. Leverkusen. Basel. The away leg in Madrid. And we always came back. But not this time.
Bayern kicked off. Within seconds of play opening, Ashley “Cashley” Cole thrashed down Toni Kroos deep in the Chelsea end. In his defence, Cashley is a rotten little tit of a player, so fouls of that nature are only to be expected. A minute later, Bastian Schweinsteiger, attempting to block a Chelsea counterattack, trusted his instincts and “deliberately” handled the ball. Freekick.
In the third minute, Bayern passed their way through the Chelsea midfield like a straw through Swiss cheese, before Schweinsteiger’s finish was blocked by Gary Cahill. If I ceased writing this recap now; left it with those lines, not only would I save both of yourself and this faithful reviewer considerable time and unnecessary pain, I would have comprehensively summed up the match in but a few words, give or take a few names. Chelsea parked the bus against Cech’s goal for so long that the driver has probably spent half of Roman Abramovich’s oily billions on even greasier sandwiches at the nearest petrol station.
In the fourth minute, Franck Ribery and Diego Contento stroked the ball back and forth and back and forth and back and forth again on the wing, eventually delivering a lovely pass to Toni Kroos, who burst in and fluttered a shot wide after being entirely-fairly-no-doubt-about-it hacked down by 309508905823 Chelsea players. The Blues, encouraged by this minor triumph (it’s the small things), pushed forward in numbers. Kalou’s final pass, an inswinging cross, was blocked by Anatoliy Tymoshchuk.
We had our own counterattack. Arjen Robben galloped forth like the knight on the Holsten label, ballooning the ball into orbit as if it were that Holsten from his mouth. This was not the last chance our boys in red squandered by a long stretch; in the 13th minute, Mario Gomez luxuriantly brushed a difficult header over the bar.
In the 17th minute, Bayern had two corners. The second of these produced a delicious skip’s scramble of goalmouth action finished off by a truly dreadful backheel by Jose Bosingwa somewhat reminiscent of Homare Sawa’s equalizer for Japan in the final of the 2011 Women’s World Cup.
There was more flair on the pitch than there is in the stands after a typical Koeln defeat. In the 21st minute, Petr Cech denied Arjen Robben from a point blanker than a Tate Gallery exhibit, before Mario Gomez executed a wondrous overhead kick that tragically went astray. If Caspar David Friedrich saw the sublime in the sea of fog, heaven knows how he would have described the Schwabian’s bicycle kick.
Terror was induced in the next 11 minutes, as The Blues finally found the keys to their bus after sifting through the gutter for the last half hour. Roberto Di Matteo’s men, no longer content to sit back and defend, embarked on a magical mystery tour in their newly discovered vehicle, creating chance after chance and failing to produce like a deranged scientist attempting to reanimate a corpse. This terrifying spate of momentum reached its climax in the 32nd minute, as Gary Cahill, apparently an attacking midfielder now, flopped to the ground like a gutted salmon, giving Chelsea a freekick from a position so perilous it should have came with a “Danger: Do Not Enter” sign somewhere in the vicinity. Referees these days are so careless.
In the 34th minute, Bayern twice came close through Arjen Robben and Thomas Müller, and were twice denied. That sounds familiar. In the 37th minute, Chelsea themselves had a fine chance, breaking like Holger Badstuber’s voice and advancing with the fire of hell on the poor Bayern defence. After some fine wing-switching, the ball fell to Salomon Kalou, who rifled in a shot only to be denied by Manuel Neuer, who clutched onto the ball like it was his one and only child.
In the 42nd minute, the world ended. After a fine series of overhead kicks (those again), Mario Gomez received a beautiful chance, which he ballooned high and wide over the bar. It doesn’t matter that Gary Cahill, quietly magnificent throughout the evening, was close-by in attendance, and tapped the Schwabian’s boot with a witty and cynical foul, causing Gomez to miss what appeared a gilt-edged chance. Mario Gomez is The Worst Striker In The History Of Football And There’s No Chance Robert Lewandowski Would Have Missed That. Obviously.
Did you enjoy the first half? No? It doesn’t get much better from hereon. In the 52nd minute, John Obi Mikel fulfilled the deepest fantasies of everyone alive and yanked Mario Gomez to the floor in the area. “I would like to be the Frau M in your stra,” cooed the Nigerian midfielder. The nearby Pedro Proenca was so touched by Mikel’s gesture of love that he opted not to take punitive measures against this foul act of self-poluttion. One minute later it looked as though respite would be gained, with Franck Ribery scoring the most beautiful tap-in I have ever bore witness to, unfortunately ruled offside, but then a linesman once did this, so who are we to trust the bastards?
The next ten minutes displayed a continuance of the delicious agony usually found only in trashy erotic fiction, angsty poetry, and Gary Neville broadcasts. For ten minutes, Bayern tore the Chelsea defence apart
like a teary-eyed Holger rips through a photograph of Manuel Neuer like Buster Bluth tears through a curtain and blew away chances like cherry blossoms in autumn. Slight progress was made in the 65th minute, as Phillip Lahm twice came near to circumventing the Ashley Cole on the left-wing, but the former Arsenal reserve batted the ball and then Lahm away with his meat-cleavery hands. Ban this sick stunt.
History repeats itself. In the 68th minute, Bayern once again indulged in some lovely wing passing before The Blues hit a counterattack with Manuel Neuer pulling out an impossible save on Salomon Kalou. In the 76th minute, corners came to Bayern like expletives come to Alberto Malesani’s mouth, and like our season, none of it made any difference.
The breakthrough came in the 82nd minute through a sublime Thomas Müller header not unlike Frank Lampard’s “goal” against Germany at the 2010 World Cup. I was confident of impending victory for seven minutes and, if I had any, would have popped the champagne cork and knock battle a bottle or two. It’s a shame I didn’t have any, because I could have used some mind-altering substances in seven minutes when Didier Drogba hammered in an equalizer.
Extra time–where do I begin? We all watched those agonizing final minutes. If Chelsea had previously parked their bus, they drove it rampant across the pitch, crushing everything in their way. The Blues contained a tired Bayern over fifteen minutes and then defeated Heynckes’ nervous charges on penalties. Mario Gomez and Ivica Olic both missed chances in regular time, the Croatian’s wide shank being particularly galling. Arjen Robben missed a penalty. Yes, I saw it. The Dutchman’s choice was perfectly justified; he had cooly converted a similar opportunity at the Bernabeu in the semifinal. None of that matters now.
The Allianz Arena is a glorious stadium, fitting of European football. There will be another Finale Dahoam someday. One day, we will all look back on this with a wry smile as we toast a successful season. One day, it won’t mean anything. But this is not that day. Thanks, everyone. It was a beautiful, unforgettable season. Sometimes, the journey is greater than the destination.
Only time will tell.
- Can it be november again?
- Football is more beautiful and deadly than a raging forest fire.
- Pedro Proenca will never have to buy a drink in Fulham ever again.
- I never want to see Ivica Olic in a Bayern shirt again. May Felix Magath give him his dues.
- I was impressed by the Tymoshchuk/Boateng duo today. Tymoshchuk was highly impressive for a defensive midfielder, while Boateng was immaculate for a player once described as brainless by that internationally renowned authority of brainlessness, Raphael Honigstein.
- People from the Home Counties who pretend to be from London are the scum of the earth. See also: English Sky pundits.
- Thomas Müller should never be substituted ever again. That is all.
- It takes a brave man to score a penalty in such a game, but it takes a braver man to miss that penalty. I’ve never loved Bastian Schweinsteiger as much as I have now.
- If it hadn’t been for the wondrous spot-kick exploits of Arjen Robben, Arjen Robben would not have had the chance to miss a penalty in a final like this. So there.
- Both Thomas Müller and Bastian Schweinsteiger declined their runners-up medals. So that’s that.