When Chelsea take on Bayern Munich in the Champions League last 16, first leg on Tuesday it will recall their meeting in the 2012 final, the most glorious night in their history.
It had not been an easy season for Chelsea, who had made Roberto Di Matteo caretaker manager after sacking André Villas-Boas in February, and few gave them a chance of winning their first European Cup, even after they beat Barcelona in a remarkable semi‑final. As they approached the game with Bayern the pain of losing the 2008 final to Manchester United on penalties weighed heavily.
Mikel John Obi, Chelsea midfielder We didn’t want something like that to happen again and we even spoke about it the day before the game. For some of us it was the last opportunity. People like Didier Drogba, Petr Cech, Frank Lampard.
Paulo Ferreira, Unused Chelsea substitute Some of the players had gone close in semi-finals and finals. As you start getting old, you start thinking you will probably not have another opportunity.
The game was held at the Allianz Arena, Bayern’s ground, and they were strong favourites. Chelsea prepared for the mental challenge.
Mikel We didn’t know Roberto Di Matteo and the club had gone to interview our brothers, sisters, parents, whoever it was that is very close to us. The videos were played in the meeting the night before the game. My younger brother was on my video. I couldn’t believe it when I saw him. We knew that would help to give us more spirit in the game. Those messages from our families were ringing in everyone’s ears.
Ferreira Playing in someone else’s stadium, you felt they had a little bit of an advantage. But they also had extra pressure. Sometimes playing at home is not an advantage. We had it when Greece beat Portugal in Lisbon in the Euro 2004 final. And Portugal won Euro 2016 against France in Paris. Sometimes it can be good. Sometimes not.
Mikel The whole stadium was red and white. The atmosphere was unbelievable. Their fans were trying to intimidate us. We could see some of the Chelsea fans behind the goal but you couldn’t really hear them. All you could hear was the Bayern fans. But we’ve played under big pressure before. There was nothing to be afraid of.
Philipp Lahm, Bayern Munich defender Our whole home city could have had a huge celebration. Everything was ready for the party. I don’t remember there being any special pressure on us. We had a feeling of security.
Chelsea’s lineup contained a surprise: Ryan Bertrand on the left wing. The youngster had never played a European game. Di Matteo told him at the team’s base, the Mandarin Oriental hotel, on the day of the game.
Ryan Bertrand, Chelsea midfielder It was on the rooftop of the hotel in the afternoon. He called me over and said: “You’re starting tonight. Are you ready?” I was like: “Yes, easy, no problem.” I didn’t want to give him any sense of: “Ohhh, he’s not.” I hadn’t seen any papers. The story was out there in the morning but I was not aware. Maybe they cleared the papers out of the hotel so I didn’t see anything. It wasn’t like today with news on Instagram.
Bertrand’s task was helping Ashley Cole to contain Arjen Robben, Bayern’s dangerous winger.
Ferreira Ryan was ready. That’s why he had the trust from Roberto. He handled the pressure really well.
Bertrand I wasn’t nervous. I’d been on loan at Nottingham Forest and I had Billy Davies as my manager and he always used to scream: “Play the game and not the occasion.” That was in my head.
John Terry was suspended following his red card in Chelsea’s semi‑final win over Barcelona. Ramires, Raul Meireles and Branislav Ivanovic were also out.
Ferreira Gary Cahill and David Luiz had injuries and I was ready to play at centre-half in case either of them didn’t make it but they did. I even did the warm-up with the starting XI. But as David Luiz said, it’s about motivation, adrenaline. You go through any pain you might have. We knew Bayern would probably have more possession. But in these finals it is all about the details, about concentration.
Lampard captained the side and Terry sat behind the bench.
Ferreira Even I was quite active on the bench. I remember talking with José Bosingwa, trying to help him with his body position. He was up against Franck Ribéry. You are not just sitting on the bench to watch the game. You want to help.
Bayern bossed the game. They had 21 shots to Chelsea’s six but Mario Gómez’s finishing was poor. Cech was inspired in goal for Chelsea and Bayern had a goal disallowed for offside but Thomas Müller finally gave them the lead in the 83rd minute.
Lahm Thomas’s goal was a huge relief. I didn’t think we were going to let victory slip out of our hands. Then again we had lost a few matches during the season after we’d been leading and playing better.
Ferreira After they scored maybe they felt: “Chelsea will have to take some risks and we might get a second goal.” They had a chance to go 2-0 up.
Mikel John Terry was not on the pitch so Lamps was pushing everyone. Drogba, too. We were all pushing each other. Lamps came to me and said: “John boy, we have to keep going. We can’t lose here.” We still had that belief.
In the 88th minute Chelsea won their only corner. David Luiz ran up to contest it and as he passed Bastian Schweinsteiger he said: “And now goal.” Juan Mata swung it in and Drogba scored with a bullet header.
Lahm It was a perfect corner and a perfect header. You’d need about 50 attempts to swing a corner right in front of the goal like that and for the striker to head it that hard and with such precision. There’s nothing you can do to prevent amazing efforts like that.
Ferreira The header was unbelievable. On the bench we just exploded.
Mikel I thought: “That’s it, we’re definitely winning.”
It was 1-1 after normal time. Then, in the third minute of extra time Drogba fouled Ribéry to concede a penalty.
Ferreira You do everything to help the team, even if you’re a striker. But Drogba dropped so much he gave away a penalty against Barcelona in the semi-final and against Bayern he did it again. Fortunately for us they both missed.
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi hit the bar while Robben was foiled by Cech – after some gamesmanship from Mikel.
Mikel I went straight to Robben and I said: “Watch, I’m telling you, you’re going to miss it.” He wasn’t looking at me. We know each other from our days at Chelsea together. And I said to him: “You’re going to miss it. Watch and see. You’re definitely going to miss it.” He didn’t say anything to me. He hit it and he missed. I was like: “Wow. I guessed right.”
Lahm I wouldn’t take that sort of intimidation. If a player says: “And now goal,” that’s something positive. But “You’re going to miss” is below the belt; it contradicts the values of fair play.
Ferreira: That’s psychological. But Petr knew Robben. When the player knows a goalkeeper, knows which your best side is, you never know. If they score at that time we probably wouldn’t make it.
Mikel In the week leading up to the game something was telling me: “We will win.” We’d had so many years where we’d had disappointment. The semi-final against Barcelona in 2009 where everyone thought we were robbed at home and 2008 as well when we lost on penalties to United.
Ferreira I have this story about my housekeeper. She is Portuguese and I remember just before we went to Germany, she said: “Paulo, I shouldn’t say this but you guys are going to win.” I was asking and asking why and finally she told me. And it was unbelievable. She said: “When did Paulo become a professional? 18, almost turning 19. What is Paulo’s shirt number? 19. When is the final? 19 May. I’m not saying anything else.” When Müller scored, I’m thinking: “She told me this and now we concede, come on …” But then when Didier scores I said: “Oh. Wait a minute …” Then Robben misses and I felt: “We will win this final.”
It went to penalties. Di Matteo had almost brought Ferreira on for Mata.
Ferreira There were five minutes left and Mata was completely dead. I was supposed to play in midfield. In five minutes anything can happen. But I just remember looking at Robbie and saying: “I’m not a penalty taker, Mata is.” We stopped and went back. We lost the semi-final to Liverpool in 2007 on penalties. We made a circle with José [Mourinho] and he was asking: “Who’s taking the first one?” Then he looked at me and said: “Paulo, you will be last – even Carlo Cudicini will be in front of you.” But in the end Mata missed and I wanted to kill him at the end of the game. I was saying: “I lost the chance to play a few minutes because I was thinking about you.”
Bayern were on top after Mata’s miss. But then Cech denied Ivica Olic and Schweinsteiger.
Ferreira Petr had that need of having a night where he could save penalties. We’d come to finals before and lost on penalties. He was fantastic.
Mikel The penalties were nerve-racking. When I saw one of my teammates going forward, some of them I watched and some I couldn’t because I was so nervous.
Drogba stepped up to take the decisive kick and sent Manuel Neuer the wrong way.
Mikel Drogba was not on the field to take his penalty in 2008 against United as he’d been sent off. Seeing Drogba go up to take the fifth penalty, I knew it was over.
Ferreira Everyone knew. He was not just a top player but he was very focused. You see how many steps he took. Short steps. He was so confident.
Mikel When Drogba scored that penalty, oh my God. I didn’t even know where to run. I was just lost, over the moon. Everyone had written us off. We were like: “Wow. How did we do that?”
Lahm What that match left behind was a pretty intense feeling. I just knew that we weren’t going to stay lying face down on the ground. Losing to Chelsea was bitter but it served a purpose: it made us into the team we became.
Bayern won the Champions League the following season but 2012 belonged to Chelsea. Their victory ensured Tottenham would play in the Europa League despite finishing fourth in the Premier League. There were cigars in the dressing room and wild celebrations back at the hotel.
Bertrand Cigars are associated with winning. So they were out in abundance. Did we know how to smoke them? Not at that stage. We were just choking on them.
Mikel The after-party was something else. No one could sleep. I had to come out of my room because I couldn’t sleep and there was the party going on, people throwing people into the pool. Roman Abramovich was there. There was a few drinks going on. Did anyone throw Roman in? No chance. Who is going to dare to do that?
Ferreira Didier went to the top floor where the swimming pool was. We threw Gary Cahill fully dressed in the pool.
Mikel A few players slept in their suits on the roof terrace. I don’t know who they were but I think Drogba was among them because I saw him with his suit on in the morning.
When we think of Chelsea 🆚 Bayern…
We think of the Didier Drogba final of 2012!
The bullet header and the ice cool penalty to win the Champions League for the Blues 🏆💙 pic.twitter.com/H6dSsG58vl
Terry gave mini replicas of the trophy to his teammates.
Mikel John, in his position as the captain, had made the replicas. Also, Drogba made some rings for the players, NBA-style ones. We’ve all got rings – 2012 Champions League winner. That’s something that you appreciate for ever. To be the first club in London to have won it, that was the biggest history ever.