The final is done. The dust has settled. Chelsea have won. Abramovich has gotten his holy grail. The caretaker has upstaged the many more illustrious before him who tried and failed. West London is bathed in a sea of blue. The trophy has been paraded. The victory has been savored.
Bavaria is distraught. It has been a ‘nightmare’, in the words of the club. The game had been dominated, the goal had been scored. Pretty much everything had been done right. Alas, the trophy is not in possession.
Watching as a neutral, I did not really have a stake in the game. I watched it, nonetheless. The game panned out just as I thought it would. Munich attacked, they created the chances, they dominated, they lost.
Chelsea hung back, they played on the counter, they waited for their chances, they defended valiantly, they were clever, they won.
In a conversation that I had on twitter with my friend, with regards to the other piece I wrote, he said that ‘Chelsea got lucky’. To which I replied, Chelsea had a game plan and stuck to it. He replied, ‘Their game plan IMHO was, pray to God that the opposition does not score. Yeah, and it worked.‘
I think we have seen here that football is unfair,” said Lahm. “We were the better team for 120 minutes and only let them have their first chance in the 88th minute after missing a hatful of chances ourselves, and that makes it even more bitter.
“It was a blow to concede in the 88th minute, but we got back going again in extra time only to suffer another blow with the penalty miss, but then we got back going again.
“I think the team reacted well to these blows and when you are so superior, then you have got to win. Not always the best team wins, I’ve got to say.
The point is that Chelsea took their chances and Bayern did not. I, honestly, don’t believe in teams being ‘unlucky’. If you hit the post, you’re not unlucky. You’re just not accurate enough. The margins are fine. Yet, they exist.
All this talk of ‘the superior team’ not winning and teams ‘deserving to win’ are, in a word, hogwash. I mean, how can you not win if you are indeed superior?
What does superior really mean? Broadly speaking, superior refers to a higher quality of performance. Say Bayern were indeed the superior team, shouldn’t they have finished the chances they got in normal time? Well, yes, they should’ve. But suppose they didn’t, for whatever reason. Shouldn’t they have converted the penalty in extra time? Well, yes, they should’ve. But they didn’t when Robben spurned the chance. Move on. If they were indeed the superior team, shouldn’t they have held their nerve? Shouldn’t they have won the penalty shoot out?
Should they have? Yes. Did they? No. Is the world fair? Perhaps not.
Christian Nerlinger, Bayern’s director of sport, said: “To sum it up, it is a nightmare which we have experienced,” he said.
“It is like a bad film. We totally dominated Chelsea and when you take the lead in the 83rd minute, then the game is basically over. We were clearly the better team, but we have lost and that is the reality.”
There is all this talk of the penalty shoot-out being a lottery. I don’t agree. If Bayern were indeed the superior team, they would’ve been superior in the shoot-out They would’ve had the mental toughness to get through the shoot-out. If you claim to be superior to the opposition, it means that you are ahead of them in every department. You can’t say that we were the clear winners during normal time for we played ‘the better football’ but were unlucky to miss out on penalties. So does that mean Chelsea were better than Bayern in the shoot-out? You bet! The result says so.
Sport is for the romantics. The romanticism is what endears sport to the millions. Secretly, everyone wants the underdog to win. Everyone, that is, except the favorites. The favorites are expected to win and if they duly do win, well, they win. However, sport does not always follow the written script and this is what makes it so enticing. The team that is expected to win does not always win.
Chelsea may well have been lucky, but at this level, as cliched as it sounds, you make your own luck. It was not Chelsea being lucky that led to Bayern missing a whole host of chances; it was poor finishing. It was not Chelsea being lucky that they scored with pretty much their only meaningful attack in normal time; it was being efficient and clinical. It was not Chelsea being lucky that Robben missed that penalty; it was poor execution. In a word, it was not Chelsea being lucky and Bayern unlucky. It was Chelsea taking their chances and Bayern not being good enough to take theirs.
You can be prime and pristine and take a purist’s view of things. You could well argue that the team that played the better brand of football must always triumph. You could argue that it is only fair that they do or that it is only right that they do. Or you could be a realist and a pragmatist and accept the fact that the team that ended up winning was the victor.
Philipp Lahm said, ‘Not always the best team wins, I’ve got to say.’ I would rephrase this ever so slightly.
Not always, the best team wins. But always, the team that wins is the best.