K - Kings of Europe
Four years ago, on a rainy night in Moscow, a dream was simply obliterated in one kick. We had never reached a night like that before, one of proportions so large the pressure seemed too much. We thought it would be simple, easy, to reach that final again. It proved to be harder than we thought, and the club struggled to get another chance.
In 2012, however, there was renewed hope. Although the previous months were topsy turvy, in both Europe and England. Led by an interim manager, the club was thrust back into the Champions League after a 3-1 defeat away to Napoli. We overcame the tie, advancing to the quarter finals. We finished that job, too, and everyone knows the lore of Barcelona.
The final job was taken to Munich against Bayern Munich, who, by luck of the draw, got to play a European cup final in their own stadium. The Munich fans were in fine form that night, with a large collage looming over their goal: “Our City. Our Stadium. Our Cup.”
For nearly the entire match, both sides battled. Munich looked the better side; in truth, perhaps they were. More corners, more chances created. Our defense was a stalwart, however - led by a central defense plagued by suspensions and injuries, they diminished the most serious threats. Our captain, our spine, battle hardened from that long night in Moscow, controlled the middle. The attack was determined, but found minimal chances.
In the 83rd minute - breakthrough. A cross from the edge of the box, a stumbling red-shirted man, bounced a ball off his head up and over our helmeted keeper. It seemed lost now.
Running out of time, our first corner of the match came in the 88th minute. Our number 10 took it beautifully; perfectly weighted, it seemed to be drawn to the head of our king. A bullet into the net.
“They just won’t give up, this Chelsea team.”
Extra time was uneventful for the most part. Early on, a king seceded a penalty. It all seemed ruined. Arms spread out as wide as they could go, and like he could read minds, our keeper blocked the penalty. It remained 1-1.
It was down to penalties. “Germans don’t lose on penalties,” they said. “Especially to an English side.” Not one person didn’t think back to that night in Moscow - it came down to penalties as well, and the result was heartbreaking. This was to happen, either way, in front of their fans, in their city, in their stadium.
Our first one. Saved. Their first. Perfectly taken, goal. Ours, goal. Theirs, goal. Ours, goal. Theirs…. saved. Ours, goal. Theirs… off the post. It was down to just one man. Unable to take a penalty in Moscow, was this redemption? Revenge?
No, it was meant to be. This, everyone, was destiny.
With one kick, that night in Munich erased the night in Moscow. It was their city, their stadium, but it was our cup.