For the second time in 15 months, Bayern Munich and Chelsea could only be separated by the drama of penalties. On this occasion, though, it was the German outfit that came out on top as they avenged their Champions League final defeat of 2012 to add the UEFA Super Cup to their burgeoning collection of silverware.
Romelu Lukaku was the man left distraught this time around as he became the first man to miss in the shootout when Manuel Neuer got a glove on the 10th penalty of the contest. Up until then, it was 120 minutes of engaging football in Prague that resulted in a 2-2 score, and between two sides still developing the ideas of their new coaches. Pep Guardiola’s Bayern predictably claimed the bulk of possession against a Jose Mourinho side that defended and pressed well while looking to strike on the break.
It was Bayern that were twice forced to come from behind. Fernando Torres put the Europa League winners in front early on before Franck Ribery equalized early in the second half. That’s how the score stayed until extra time, but not before Ramires was deservedly shown a second yellow card. Despite that numerical disadvantage, Chelsea went back in front with an Eden Hazard strike that owed much to an error from Neuer. And, after a string of fine saves from Petr Cech, Chelsea looked set to get their hands on the trophy. Instead, Javi Martinez struck right at the death to take the match to penalties where they would claim the Super Cup for the first time in their gloried history.
Without the same fear of defeat that so often occurs with a more prestigious trophy at stake, the clash in styles made for an entertaining affair. Chelsea largely defended and pressed their opponents well, but without the same impeccable resoluteness of Mourinho’s first spell in charge of the London side, while also looking dangerous on the break. Bayern, meanwhile, displayed plenty of flair going forward. Yet, without the double midfield pivot of last season, the Champions League holders have yet to resolve their defensive vulnerabilities.
The expected pattern was set early. Bayern were comfortable ion possession, while Chelsea looked to break with purpose and pace at every opportunity. And with Bayern’s defensive shape in disarray, Chelsea struck in just the eighth minute.
Eden Hazard led the break with a run through the middle before getting it quickly out to Andre Schurrle on the right, who put in a first time ball for Torres to sweep a shot past an unmoved Manuel Neuer into the top corner of the net. It was the kind of instinctive finish which Torres, despite his decline still thrives on and the Spaniard may well relish playing in Mourinho’s more vertical attacking style than the slower-paced buildup preferred by his predecessors.
From Bayern’s point of view, it was another stark reminder of the work that still needs to be done by Guardiola to make his side proficient in both facets of the game. Going forward there as plenty to admire about the German outfit’s play. Chelsea, though, were doing a good job, of denying space out wide to danger men Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben.
Yet, Ribery, on the back of being voted the UEFA’s Best Player In Europe, continued to try and make something happen and looked the man most likely to do so. On three occasions he came close in the first half, first forcing a fine save from Cech and then unable to find his range with efforts from the edge of the box.
That was until just two minutes after the half-time interval. Chelsea appeared to lose concentration coming out of the tunnel and Ribery for once was allowed to find space as he moved past Ramires and, with Gary Cahill failing to come out quick enough, unleashed a powerful drive that Cech will be disappointed beat him at his near post.
Bayern now had the impetus and Ribery soon came close to putting his team in front with a volley just wide, while Robben struck over the bar following a well-worked free-kick.
But there remained signs of the Bavarians’ vulnerability at the other end. A calamitous error from Dante forced Neuer to have to save from Oscar, while Chelsea came close from two set-pieces as Branislav Ivanovic crashed a header against the crossbar and then Neuer made a good save from David Luiz.
Five minutes before the match went to extra time, Ramires gave Bayern’s hopes a boost. The Brazilian executed an appalling high challenge on substitute Mario Gotze, just back from injury, which earned him a second yellow card, but should have seen him given a straight red. That Chelsea’s players had the temerity to argue the decision beggared belief.
Yet, unfathomably, at the start of extra time, more poor Bayern defending allowed Chelsea’s 10 men to go in front. Hazard was allowed to simply drift inside the penalty area from the left touchline and then he’s low shot down the center of the goal caught Neuer off guard to find the net.
Cech looked like preserving that lead with a succession of fine saves from Mandzukic, Javi Martinez and Ribery. But in the final seconds there was nothing he could do to prevent a dramatic equalizer. Chelsea failed to clear a cross from the left and the ball took a touch off Dante and into the path of Javi Martinez to finish from close range with virtually the last touch of the match.
It was penalties once more between these sides. And, after nine had been confidently struck home, Neuer got down low to his left to stop a tame effort from Lukaku after the substitute’s short run up.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.