2012 review

Champions Chelsea

December 31, 2012
By ESPN staff

ESPN FC's network of correspondents are dedicated to bringing you the best news and features from around the globe, and here are some of their favourite moments from 2012.

• John Brewin, Senior Editor

ChelseaGettyImagesChelsea celebrate their Champions League win

The U-Bahn dripped with both sweat and expectation. The songs were sung lustily, and their lyrics spoke only of a Bayern victory. Winning it at home would be a matter of course. The hard work had been done in Madrid. Yet when midnight came, Munich was miserable. A city set for celebration was hardly open for business. Cheery Chelsea fans found themselves unable to get a late drink to wash down victory.

The city was not quite united in that misery, since the cabbie who took me back to the airport was an 1860 Munich fan who chuckled into his capacious beard for our entire journey. This, he said, was as amusing a morning as those that followed Bayern losing to FC Porto in 1987 and in Barcelona in 1999. In fact, this was better because it had happened here, in Munich.

Seven months on, it is difficult to recall that May saw Chelsea crowned as champions of Europe. In the small hours of the Sunday morning that followed Drogba's penalty and Petr Cech's heroics, we considered that perhaps Roman Abramovich could rest easy at last and be satisfied with the achievement of a dream. Chelsea could build on the foundations of such success. As 2012 turns into 2013, such considerations seem naïve and hugely misplaced.

"We know what we are, champions of Europe, we know what we are," sang the small pockets of Chelsea fans who could still be found in the streets as a new dawn approached. They could not be begrudged their moment; their logic was undeniable.

Your correspondent had seen the game from a high vantage point in the Allianz Arena. Troublingly for a journalist expected to send copy within an hour of the final whistle, I had no desk. Notes were scribbled. The writing would have to be rushed when I got to the media room afterwards. Still, that meant I could try to enjoy the game.

When Thomas Muller's header scuffed in off the crossbar, Roberto Di Matteo's masterplan looked to have failed. Yet within an hour he was to be found screaming "I won it!" in Abramovich's face. He may look back now on a moment of regrettable over-excitement.

Even before they opened the scoring, the occasion had got to Bayern. Every attack was greeted with a roar, not of encouragement but of audible anxiety.

They and their fans wanted this too much. And they did not possess a man for the big occasion quite like Didier Drogba. His crashing header from Juan Mata's corner broke their hearts. It also probably broke Arjen Robben's resolve when he stepped up to take what turned out to be a pathetic extra-time penalty.

Bastian Schweinsteiger was the tearful face to fill German newsstands on Sunday morning. His march to take his fateful shoot-out penalty was almost funereal. His stuttering run-up convinced nobody, especially not my colleague and friend Yann Tear, who called that Schweinsteiger had missed even before he kicked the ball. Destiny would be Drogba's. He strode up with an air of inevitable heroism.

There would be no moments of contemplation for me. A desk at the very bottom of the stadium beckoned. I dodged myself into a lift that contained a cheery Lancastrian man in a wheelchair and former UEFA president Lennart Johannson with minder. The latter received a deferential bow at every level as we descended. I made it to a workstation and was soon bashing out copy. Luckily, the words flowed easily. If they do not on a night like that, then you are in the wrong game.

My duties meant I missed Chelsea's celebrations, and John Terry's shin-padded gate-crashing too. They provided much merriment when I saw them later. Despite Terry's best efforts to claim this as a personal victory, his antics were a minor distraction on what was the greatest night in Chelsea's history. It was a privilege to be there.