Chelsea’s end to the season will go down in the history books as a grand run of upsets. One can only point to sheer determination and the wills of higher powers to understand what gave Chelsea the winning touch.
After Chelsea had lost to Napoli in the opening knockout round 3-1, and manager Andre Villas-Boas was fired, the club looked destined for implosion. But the team responded by winning the return leg 4-1 in extra time to progress. Then, against all odds Chelsea defeated Barcelona with a ten man standoff that was a match for the ages.
In the final there was more drama. After going down 1-0 to Bayern Munich with ten minutes to go, Chelsea equalized at the death, Petr Cech saved an extra time penalty, and the Blues won through a penalty shootout to take the trophy back to Stamford Bridge! All this was accomplished in Munich's own stadium! Never has such an improbable run filled with so much excitement produced this sort of Champions League victory.
In attempting to explain such a result one must look at a few bold moves that turned the season around for Chelsea. First, owner Roman Abromovich fired manager Andre Villas-Boas. The young manager had dug a large hole for the club and seemingly was terribly disconnected from the players. Abromovich had been criticized for his quick firing of managers but he clearly got this one right. Interim manager Roberto Di Matteo performed magic to propel Chelsea to two cup victories and clearly inspired the players. It was a hard move by the owner, but it was this single moment that brought success to the season.
Di Matteo had some brilliant decisions as well. He gave the starting striker role to Didier Drogba in the major matches. Quite controversial, the call was obviously correct. Fernando Torres had been given every opportunity to prove himself but was flailing about and hardly sniffing chances at goal. Drogba started scoring crucial goals in many big matches.
Drogba opened the scoring against Napoli to start overturning their two goal deficit in the second leg. He also scored the only goal in the first leg Champions League semifinal against Barcelona. The goal, right at the stroke of half time, gave them a monumental victory over the Spanish side and proved vital in earning a spot in the final.
Further scoring on the big occasion, Drogba claimed the eventual winner in the FA Cup final against Liverpool. Drogba saved his best moment for his last though, scoring an 89th minute equalizer against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final. The goal was a trademark Drogba header, powered in off of a corner kick. Even more, Drogba sealed the win with his penalty kick in the shootout.
So for me, Chelsea’s season was saved with a gutsy call by the owner to fire Villas-Boas and the sensational soccer that Drogba has played in his final Chelsea games. The striker will forever be a Chelsea legend, and he performed his best when the team needed it.