Prior to kick-off at the Allianz Arena, Didier Drogba’s most vilifying moment in a blue jersey was the infamous incident at the Luzinskhi stadium in May of 2008, involving Vidic which earned him his marching orders and ultimately cost Chelsea the European cup. Four years on, Didier returned to the Champions league final seeking redemption and glory for himself and Chelsea at large.
When Andre-Villas Boas was axed by Roman Abramovich, few could have predicted a change in fortunes for the Londoners who looked to be heading out of Europe’s elite club competition after a 3-1 reversal in the hands of Napoli and also looked out-of-sorts in the League. Didier; who was more of a peripheral figure during AVB’s stint took charge in the newly elevated assistant-Roberto Di Matteo-first Champions League game in charge at the Stamford Bridge scoring the first of four goals and leading the line excellently for the blues.
However, failing to score against Benfica was a no-issue after his teammates stepped up to the plate to book Chelsea a place against old foes-Barcelona in the semi-final. With an impressive shift against the Catalans at the Bridge in which he scored the lone goal that gave Chelsea victory, the Ivory Coast striker once again worked his socks out at the Camp Nou, playing as the lone striker and tucking in as a left-back after Terry was dismissed.
In a career that has seen him notch up more than a century of goals for Chelsea, plus numerous titles including three premier league, four FA cup titles and The African player of the Year title to boot, the one remaining trophy-the holy grail-which eluded him up until this night was the European cup. Blamed for Chelsea’s failure against Manchester united in which he was meant to take the last penalty which Terry made a mess of, Didier carried the burden of a club and in extension-Roman Abramovich- so engrossed and obsessed with the UEFA champions league trophy.
With 8 minutes left to play, Bayern Munich went ahead deservingly after Ribery found Thomas Muller at the far post. The German international powered his header past the stranded Cech who really should have done better. But Just when the Bavarians thought they had done enough to secure a fifth European cup, Didier rose high in the box to power home a ferocious header past Manuel Neuer after Mata delivered a good cross from Chelsea’s first corner kick of the game, two minutes from regulation time. For all of Bayern’s superiority throughout 90 minutes, Drogba was the only threat from a Chelsea side that rarely tested the Bavarians’ defence.
But just as it played out four years ago in Moscow, Didier went from hero to villain after a clumsy challenge on Ribery inside the penalty box. The resulting penalty from former Chelsea and Holland international Arjen robben was saved by the excellent Petr Cech. Opposing fans attired in the blue and red of Chelsea and Bayern respectively held their breaths as the centre official blew the final whistle, ensuring that the 57th European cup final would be decided via penalty shoot-outs.
It all seemed like history was to repeat itself after Mata missed from the spot. But when Bayern’s Ivica Olic and Bastain Schweinsteiger missed consecutively from the spot, the honour fell to Didier to end what had been a 107-year wait for Chelsea’s first European cup trophy. On a day when the date coincided with Chelsea’s founding year-1905[19-05-2012]-,Didier slotted coolly from 12 yards to end what had been a tumultuous period for both player and club.
Statistics will show that Bayern did deserve to win the game but it seemed certain that the Bavarian skyline would smile upon a player whose quest for redemption typified his and Chelsea’s resilience and attitude towards a competition they consider their Holy Grail. Didier Drogba has etched his name in our minds forever but it is this special moment-indeed, the zenith of his career- that defines him as a man and a professional, for he went from hero to villain and back -to the ultimate hero.