The curtain finally came down on Chelsea’s extended 2019/20 season as defeat to the German champions Bayern Munich saw us eliminated from the Champions League at the last-16 stage.
It was always going to be an uphill battle at the Allianz Arena as the Blues looked to come back from a 3-0 loss at Stamford Bridge 165 days prior to this second leg. That task was made even more difficult when Willy Caballero conceded a penalty early on and Robert Lewandowski converted with his usual confident aplomb.
Bayern were 2-0 up on the night by the midway point of the first period when Ivan Perisic added to their lead but Frank Lampard could be pleased and proud of the reaction from his players, who refused to throw in the towel on a sweltering summer’s night in Munich.
Callum Hudson-Odoi thought he had pulled one back with a sumptuous finish but was thwarted by the video technology, which adjudged that Tammy Abraham had been narrowly offside in the build-up. Abraham made amends for that with a goal right before the break and that inspired a positive restart from the visitors, who had more of the ball and more chances early in the second half.
However, we were unable to reduce the significant deficit any further as Mason Mount and Ross Barkley were denied before Corentin Tolisso and Lewandowski added further goals late on. The final score left the Blues on the wrong end of a heavy aggregate defeat in Europe at the culmination of this most unprecedented of seasons.
Early penalty pain
The Blues always needed to score four goals in order to advance to the quarter-finals and that remained the case even after Bayern extended their aggregate advantage inside 10 minutes. Lewandowski was the goalscorer, the Polish striker netting his 52nd of an incredibly prolific season from the spot after being brought down by Caballero.
There was an initial reprieve for our Argentinian keeper when the flag was raised to indicate Lewandowski was offside but that decision was overturned by the video assistant referee and the foul was therefore penalised.
Bayern’s number nine stepped up with the sort of confidence you would expect from someone who has scored in 19 of his last 21 matches, arrowing the ball beyond the reach of Caballero to make it 4-0 on aggregate.
Bayern and VAR step in
Thomas Muller went close to making it 2-0 on the night with a shot fired over at the end of a neat move but it wasn’t long before the German champions were celebrating again. Mateo Kovacic was dispossessed cheaply in midfield and the hosts broke forward, Lewandowski turning provider this time for Perisic to slot into the bottom corner.
Lampard’s men responded to that blow quite positively and Emerson brought the first serious piece of goalkeeping from Manuel Neuer, who shovelled the defender’s stinging strike behind. Hudson-Odoi soon had the ball in the back of the Bayern net with a beautiful finish curled into the far corner but the VAR had spotted that Abraham’s heel was offside in the build-up and the Chelsea goal was swiftly chalked off.
Blues’ belief reaps rewards
Abraham’s 18th goal of the season right on the stroke of half-time provided a useful boost to the visitors. It was a predatory finish from the 21-year-old, who pounced on a mistake from Neuer to prod the ball in from a few yards out and continue his impressive individual campaign.
It might not have been the start of a glorious comeback but it was a just reward for an improvement in Chelsea’s general play and control in the contest, giving Lampard some reason for encouragement in his half-time briefing with the players.
The restart was also bright for the Blues, who fashioned particular joy in behind Bayern’s high defensive line. Mount escaped down the left flank but was let down by a heavy first touch, forcing himself wide of goal and making the save for Neuer much more routine.
Abraham then went running clear down the opposite channel but checked and then supplied a pass just behind the supporting Barkley, who saw the chance smothered. Down the other end, Zouma produced an impressive block in the 18-yard box to keep the deficit at four.
Improved display with a sting in the tail
Opportunities continued to come down both ends as the two teams played out an entertaining game. Muller spurned a chance over the bar and Thiago Alcantara somehow hit a free header straight at Caballero, while Barkley and Reece James took aim at Neuer’s goal without really troubling the German.
The sting in the tail came with two further Bayern goals in the final 15 minutes, both close-range finishes that flew past Caballero from Tolisso and Lewandowski. It meant the final aggregate score was a tough-looking 7-1 and will leave Lampard with plenty to ponder over his reduced summer break, albeit with the primary aim of the campaign to return Chelsea to the top table of European football once more in 2020/21 having been achieved.
Frank’s faith in youth
A common theme throughout Lampard’s maiden season in charge at Stamford Bridge has been his willingness to pick players based on performance and regardless of age.
In return, the youngsters have repaid his faith – Abraham is our top goalscorer in all competitions, Mount has been consistently effective and James has established himself as a reliable top-flight full-back.
All three started in the German capital and there were a host of other Cobham-produced players on the bench as well. In fact, a dozen of the Chelsea squad were Academy graduates, including five starters. While the campaign may have ended in disappointing fashion with two cup defeats, it’s clear to see that our future is bright.
Back to the scene of our greatest night
It was of course a return to the stadium which hosted our 2012 triumph in this competition but so much else was different; no supporters, only three of the starters from eight years ago returning to the field (all for Bayern) and Chelsea’s captain on that night now the man in charge.
Chelsea supporters had probably used up all their lucky omens on our last night in Munich, which did not bode well for overturning a 3-0 deficit. However, the miracle of 2012 did at least provide some inspiration in the build-up.
There were six changes to the FA Cup final starting 11 a week previously, two of which were enforced through suspension alongside a host of injury absentees. Jorginho and Marcos Alonso missed out on disciplinary grounds, with Andreas Christensen returning to a back four and N’Golo Kante starting his first game in a month.
Further forward, Abraham led a youthful attacking line up front supported by Mount and Hudson-Odoi.
A break. Three days short of a year since our opening game of 2019/20, the longest season has come to an end and the players will now take a well-deserved but shortened summer holiday. Our first competitive game back is scheduled for five weeks’ time.