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I'm still trying to work out exactly what Chelsea's stunning penalty kick victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League Finals on Saturday means. I won't solve all of the world's problems in this column, but I have come up with the following conclusions:
o Roberto Di Matteo deserves and will likely get the Head Coaching job at Chelsea. I know Roman loves big names, but he also had a fetish about the Cup. Now that RDM has won it for him -- forget about the FA Cup, that was a nice extra that doesn't count for much in the World According to Roman -- I don't see how the Russian oligarch could turn his back on the Italian. Di Matteo did a masterful job of reversing the psychological damage inflicted on the club by the disastrous appointment of Andre Villas-Boas, and turning the Blues' entire season around. His appointment may have come too late to save Chelsea from a 6th place finish in the League, but with the victory on Saturday, even that sin has been overcome -- Chelsea are back in the Champions League next season.
o Didier Drogba just placed his name front and center on the Chelsea Legend list. Overlooked and underappreciated at the season's start, the big Ivorian topped all of his accomplishments with the 88th minute header that changed the course of a Bayern Munich victory, stunning the opponent and the heavily home-team-oriented crowd, and switching the game's momentum inexorably and irreversibly in the visitors' favor. The fact that Drogba also gave away a penalty that led to Arjen Robben's failed attempt to win the game, and then scored the fourth and final penalty to win it outright only seals my belief: this game -- nay, this Championship -- was all about The Drog.
o Yesterday's result was very harsh on Spurs. After being denied entry into next year's Champions League tournament by Chelsea's victory, Spurs fans know the feeling felt by fans of Manchester United the weekend prior: you cannot put yourself in a position where you need to rely on the result of another team. In the end, much like United again, Spurs have no one to blame but themselves. The late draw against Villa -- a team that narrowly escaped relegation, and only because they ran out of games -- was an absolute killer, the kind that could see name-brand Tottenham stars such as Luka Modric and Gareth Bale head for the exits. Uncle Harry, after being passed over for the England job, will see his vaunted man management skills tested to the max this Summer while trying to keep his team together.
o Petr Cech may have had a so-so season, but his heroics in the Champions League cannot be overlooked. Coming up big by throwing off a penalty by Lionel Messi in the prior round at the Camp Nou, denying Arjen Robben in extra time Saturday, and then making some crucial saves in the shootout which followed, Cech contributed more than most to the Chelsea cause.
o His acrobatics may have just about been topped by Gary Cahill and Ashley Cole, though. I noticed this in the prior round, as well -- the Chelsea defense played as if life and limb mattered not in sacrificing every inch of their bodies to stop balls from ever reaching Cech. I can't recall ever seeing another team so determined to block the ball for such long periods of time -- entire games, no less -- with their bodies and defend their side's goal with a ferociousness of which a mother bear would be proud.
o Next year's Champions League spots are taken up by the following four teams: City, United, Arsenal and Chelsea. I believe I predicted the same on these pages back in mid-August of last year, as opposed to some of our Columnists who predicted a top four finish for Liverpool (Scott is excused for his overexuberance in this area, but Ed has no excuse, really-- none at all). Okay, so I may have gotten the order wrong -- the last day of the season kind of hurt me there -- but I got the teams correct, and there ought to be some prize for that.
o A season in which all of the major trophies are won by Chelsea, Manchester City, and Liverpool couldn't have gone much worse for Manchester United fans. Enough said.
o Anyone who tries to say cantenaccio is dead or only played by Italian teams need only look as far as Chelsea's last three games in the Champions League. I predict a rash of teams following suit next season, and the results are not going to be pretty.
This is farlieonfoootie for May 21.
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