Gbemi Aderemi writes a continuation of the series..
6. Cech vs Bayern
Chelsea winning the Champions league in 2012 was nothing short of a minor miracle. To say this was a team in transition is a gross understatement. Chelsea’s squad basically consisted of older players past their prime (Lampard, Terry, Drogba), average journeymen (Raul Meireles, Romeu, Bosingwa) and wet-in-the-ear youngsters (Bertrand, Sturridge). And yet, they won the Champion’s league. But if beating Guardiola’s great Barcelona side in the semifinal was noteworthy, defeating Bayern Munich at the Allianz was simply unbelievable.
Chelsea’s organization at the back certainly helped as Gary Cahill and David Luiz had stellar performances. Didier Drogba also deservedly took a lot of plaudits for Chelsea’s win. But the true star of the match was Petr Cech. Not only did he make crucial stops to repel Bayern’s onslaught in the first 90 minutes, but his penalty save in extra time kept his team in the match. He also produced a crucial save against Olic in the penalty shootout to help turn the tide in Chelsea’s favor. He might lack the charisma of Buffon, the showmanship of Neuer or the reflexes of Casillas. But when Cech was at his best he was quite literally a last line of defense. With his performance in the 2012 final, he cemented his status as a Chelsea legend forever.
5. Messi vs Bayern
This match was billed as the star pupil versus the inspirational teacher. It was the reunion of Pep Guardiola, Barcelona’s most successful coach, and Messi, Barcelona’s greatest player. Who would come out on top? By the 77th minute, it seemed this was to be Guardiola’s night. Bayern, operating without Robben and Ribery, had managed to keep Messi, Suarez and Neymar out. All they needed was a valuable away goal to cap a good night’s work. Unfortunately the pursuit of this away goal ended up been their undoing. When Dani Alves nimbly intercepted Neuer’s pass to Bernat, he quickly laid the ball off to Messi’s feet. Messi promptly shifted the ball to his left foot and rifled a shot past Neuer’s near post from 20 yards out. If the German keeper found that a tough goal to concede, he hadn’t seen anything yet.
Moments later, Rakitic found Messi lingering in the right side of the box. Jerome Boateng, who had had an excellent game, squared up to the Argentine. What happened next became the most gif-worthy moment in 2015 European football. With a sharp drop of his shoulder, Messi dropped the German defender on the seat of his shorts and with his weaker foot dinked a shot over Neuer. In a matter of minutes, Messi had stamped his authority on this tie and given Guardiola’s side a mountain to climb. As if this wasn’t enough, his pass helped set Neymar on his way to scoring Barcelona’s third. Three and easy. Two goals and an assist. Messi had once again shown that at his best, no one can stop him. Not the best keeper in the world. Not the best manager in the world. Not the best centre back in the world. No one.