A little bit of redemption

Posted by Susie Schaaf

Well, it was entertaining...

...for a neutral, that is. Even though I stand by my statement that I would have preferred three points at Freiburg than winning an essentially meaningless Cup Final, once play got underway at Prague's Eden Arena it was difficult not to get in to the hype. All the subplots and context made for a wildly entertaining match.

- Lomas: Bayern create history

Pep Guardiola versus Jose Mourinho. Bayern versus Chelsea. As Didier Drogba equalized late against Bayern in 2012 to send that Champions League final to penalties, so went Javi Martinez; equalizing in last-gasp extra time to force penalties once again. Bayern had their chance at redemption. And saw it through.

Manuel Neuer post-match: "Fortunately, we managed to win the penalty shootout this time. It was very important, for psychological reasons. The penalties before [the save] were superbly taken, ours included -- I'd have been delighted to see the same thing in the Champions League final two years ago."

Fernando Torres scored to put Chelsea up 1-0 early in the match before UEFA's European Player of the Year, Franck Ribery, leveled just after the half. Eden Hazard restored 10-man Chelsea's one goal advantage just three minutes in to added time, before substitute Martinez shot the equalizer with seven seconds left on the clock -- forcing a penalty shootout.

Guardiola rested a rash of players mid-week for this Super Cup match, and his starting XI here wasn't a surprise. Although Bastian Schweinsteiger had returned to training after spraining his ankle against Freiburg Tuesday, he was ruled unfit in Prague; leaving captain Philipp Lahm to officially take his place at the six.

Rafinha got the right back slot -- and owned by Hazard -- with Jerome Boateng, Dante and David Alaba -- who had his own problems with Andre Schuerrle -- rounding out the back four. Mario Mandzukic was up top with a complement of Arjen Robben, Thomas Mueller, Toni Kroos and Ribery tucked in just behind in attacking midfield.

Mandzukic and Ribery would get early sniffs at goal before Hazard broke free of Rafinha. His pass to Schuerrle saw the ex-Leverkusen man cross it perfectly to Torres who shot just inside the post. Neuer never had a chance.

Bayern countered immediately as Mandzukic crossed to Lahm for a volley, and Mandzukic would be involved again with a lovely through-ball that Mueller couldn't quite get a handle on. Kroos took on the single pivot role as Lahm played forward as some nifty one-two play from Mandzukic and Ribery saw Chelsea keeper Petr Cech just save the Frenchman.

On the half hour, Ribery shot just wide, while Torres and Schuerrle combined to get down to the other end, flummoxing Dante as Torres shot just over the bar. To close out the half, Robben would serve Mueller -- blocked out by a last-ditch tackle -- and take a deflected shot off Ramires.

After an inspiring talk from Guardiola at the half -- the coach telling Ribery and Robben to stay as wide as possible -- Ribery would finally go near post, and finally beat Cech to equalize for Bayern.

The two mercurial wingers would try to take the lead with half-volleys before Rafinha was subbed for a not-wholly-fit Martinez. Martinez took up the "6", sending Lahm back to right back; immediately stabilizing the defense. Well, it would have been a stable defense if Dante hadn't slipped, giving Oscar a rip at goal brilliantly saved by Neuer.

Mueller was denied by Ashley Cole and Robben got another volley in before Mario Goetze came on for his Germany and Bayern team-mate. Goetze would be downed by Cole as the game started to take on a more temperamental nature, with Martinez the recipient of a nasty cleat to the ankle by fellow countryman Torres.

Schuerrle's header hit the post and Kroos went over the bar before a David Luiz header drew a reaction save out of Neuer. And the friskiness continued as Ramires would see red on a nasty follow through tackle on Goetze with just four minutes remaining in regular time.

Despite being reduced to ten men, Chelsea was unwilling to give up the fight as they re-took the lead when Hazard juked Lahm and stood up Boateng just three minutes in to the extra period. Xherdan Shaqiri would enter for Robben and get a couple shots off to close the first 15 minutes of added time.

The second 15 minutes was an absolute siege on Chelsea's net, with Cech denying Mandzukic and Boateng in quick succession, before a tackle on Shaqiri and Alaba's errant drive kept the Blues narrowly in front. Chelsea's keeper also saved Ribery's wonderful free kick before Boateng headed just over, and Mandzukic getting a head on as well.

It was do-or-die time as all ten Chelsea players hunkered down in the box with the final whistle imminently blowing. But they couldn't last quite enough as Martinez took Dante's knock-down past Cech with just seven seconds remaining.

Neuer and Cech would exchange kind words as the two goalkeepers set themselves for a penalty shootout, eerily reminiscent of the 2012 final. Alaba sent Cech the wrong way. Luiz sent Neuer the wrong way. Kroos sent Cech the wrong way. Oscar scored high despite Neuer guessing right. Lahm would get just past Cech, who also guessed right. Frank Lampard got past Neuer. Ribery, who once said, "I don't even know what I'm going to do" sent Cech wrong. Cole got really lucky when his shot banged off the post, the rebound going in. Shaqiri beat Cech, who guessed right again.

Then Romelu Lukaku stepped up. The young Belgian is an admirer of Drogba, and has been compared to him. But, what Drogba did to Munich in 2012 was not to be repeated on this night. You could see it in his eyes when he stepped up to the spot. A stutter step. A weak kick. And Neuer saves. One has to wonder why John Terry didn't take the kick. He is their captain after all.

After the furore over the draw against Freiburg, Pep has earned a grace period going in to the international break. While Bayern is certainly a team to be feared, there are glaring inconsistencies. If this 2014 team is going to be about possession, they'll eventually have to start doing something with it.

But, at the end of it all, it was a lovely way to spend a Friday. A little bit of redemption goes a long way in to a weekend.


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