How it was Cech mate: Blues' No 1 reveals his logic that saved the day in Munich
21:57 GMT, 20 May 2012
Only when listening to Petr Cech at Munich’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Sunday morning did it become clear just how brilliant a performance he delivered on Saturday night.
Only then did it become clear that Chelsea’s victory was a victory for intelligence and logic as well as courage, determination and athleticism; for meticulous preparation on the part of Roberto Di Matteo as well as guts and guile and the finishing of the irrepressible Didier Drogba.
Cech sat with a small gathering of invited journalists, his winner’s medal hanging from his neck and the European Cup positioned on the carpet in front of him, and explained how he made the first of three penalty saves.
First up: Petr Cech saves Arjen Robben's penalty in extra time
Bayern Munich: Neuer, Lahm, Boateng, Tymoschuk, Contento, Schweinsteiger, Kroos, Robben, Muller (Van Buyten 86), Ribery (Olic 97), Gomez. Subs not used: Butt, Petersen, Rafinha, Usami, Pranjic.
Scorer: Muller 83.
Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Luiz, Cahill, Cole, Kalou (Torres 84), Mikel, Lampard, Bertrand (Malouda 73), Mata, Drogba. Subs not used: Turnbull, Essien, Romeu, Ferreira, Sturridge.
Booked: Cole, Luiz, Drogba, Torres.
Scorer: Drogba 88.
Referee: Pedro Proenca (Portugal).
It was perhaps the most crucial, awarded to Bayern Munich in the fifth minute of extra time after Drogba had foolishly felled Franck Ribery. John Mikel Obi played his part, mischievously informing Arjen Robben that his former Chelsea colleague would know exactly what he intended to do; that Cech would make the save.
Cech, it turns out, was not quite that confident, but the thought process that led to him choosing the right way — a thought process built on a study of the Holland winger’s technique — remains incredibly impressive.
‘Robben always shoots different ways,’ said Cech. ‘There’s no pattern in his penalties. So I didn’t know what to do with him. Half he shoots to the right, half to the left. No pattern whatsoever. He even runs up the same way to the ball.
But when you’re tired, when you’ve played for 95 minutes, players choose power rather than technique, rather than placing it. I thought he’d smash it somewhere near the corner and hope it would go through. He’s left-footed. I’m left-footed, and I thought if it was me I’d shoot across, left to right. Which is why I went to my left.’
Second helpings: Cech was spot on again to save from Ivica Olic in the penalty shoot-out
This is a guy who mastered Spanish in a month, his fourth language. For this Champions League final he mastered Bayern’s penalty takers in two hours, destroying the myth that the Germans always win these shootouts.
Even on the eve of the game Jupp Heynckes was pointing to the superior mental strength of his compatriots when it comes to scoring from 12 yards. Cech and Chelsea’s penalty takers took a sledgehammer to that theory. Not least with the saves to deny Ivica Olic and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
That's the set: Cech got a hand to Bastian Schweinsteiger's penalty to push it on to the post
How much did Cech know about Bayern’s chosen five on Saturday night ‘Quite a bit because I went six times the right way for the six penalties,’ he said with a wry smile. ‘I either guessed pretty well or I was ready to guess pretty well. I’d seen all the Bayern penalties since 2007. It took me about two hours to go through them all on a DVD, on the flight over. The coaching staff studied them too and we took notes. When it came to the shootout I then said, “Guys, the notes” But Hilario said, “You don’t need the notes, you’ll save everything”.
‘Mario Gomez hit the best penalty. I got close to Manuel Neuer’s. But I’d gone the right way each time and it would have been impossible to have kept guessing right and not saved one. That’s what happened. I got a touch on Schweinsteiger’s, too.’
Cech mate: Chelsea's goalkeeper celebrates with the Champions League trophy in Munich
It was astonishing, not least the way Bayern contrived to lose the initiative three times. They tossed it away when they allowed Drogba to cancel out Thomas Muller’s 83rd-minute opener with a thumping header of his own two minutes from time; again when Robben missed his penalty and lastly when the shootout was 3-1 in their favour.
They also squandered the considerable advantage that came with being at home. A neutral venue Try telling that to Chelsea when three-quarters of the ground was a sea of red. In every respect it was like a home game for Bayern, even down to the tactics of the teams. Bayern attacked and for the most part dominated, unleashing 35 attempts to Chelsea’s nine and earning 20 corners to Chelsea’s one. But it was from that one corner, delivered by Juan Mata, that Drogba equalised.
The one that got away: Cech was beaten by Thomas Muller's penalty but it proved to count for nothing
In midfield, in particular, Bayern were excellent, especially Toni Kroos and Schweinsteiger. What a player Kroos is. But Schweinsteiger could not watch when Robben took that 95th-minute penalty and the fear of losing a third title this season clearly got the better of him when it came to taking Bayern’s final spot-kick.
Under the guidance of Di Matteo, super cool until he needed to deliver a stirring speech to his shattered players at the end of normal time, Chelsea displayed no such nerves.
Winner: Didier Drogba scored the penalty that won Chelsea the trophy
Frank Lampard and Mikel worked tirelessly in midfield, while David Luiz and Gary Cahill were magnificent for two centre halves returning from injury, keeping Gomez quiet with impressive ease.
Luiz not only confirmed he had suffered a setback with his hamstring injury on the Thursday but revealed it went again after 20 minutes of this game. ‘I told myself I’d play with the heart rather than the body,’ he said afterwards.
In Cech’s words, ‘Cahill and Luiz were amazing’, and never more so than when Luiz took that huge run- up before thumping home his shootout penalty following Mata’s opening miss.
Big winners: Chelsea celebrate their Champions League triumph in Munich
Ashley Cole was also immense, at left back and when it came to burying his penalty at a Bayern end that became a wall of sound designed to intimidate the Chelsea players who had to make that lonely walk from the halfway line.
To beat Bayern in the manner they did, to exorcise the ghosts of Chelsea’s Champions League past, to heal the scars of Moscow, was a credit to all those involved. From Di Matteo to the Champions League debutant, Ryan Bertrand.
Home comforts: Chelsea paraded the Champions League trophy in London on Sunday
In Drogba, though, they had their big-match winner; the scorer of nine goals in nine cup finals and someone, surely, Roman Abramovich has to keep at Stamford Bridge.
Where John Terry had failed in 2008, Drogba succeeded. ‘I was confident,’ he said as he recalled the thoughts passing through his mind as he marched towards the penalty spot. ‘I wanted to score for Petr Cech, for my team-mates, I just wanted to make Chelsea smile.’
He certainly succeeded.