Mario Gomez, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm (l.-r.) show their pain in that fateful Champions League final defeat to Chelsea at the Allianz Arena. - © PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP via Getty Images
Mario Gomez, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm (l.-r.) show their pain in that fateful Champions League final defeat to Chelsea at the Allianz Arena. - © PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP via Getty Images

Why Bayern Munich can thank Chelsea for sparking one of their most successful eras

Bayern Munich faced Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League this week with memories of one of the greatest disappointments in their recent history still fresh in the mind, although could that fateful night in Munich have been the catalyst for one of the most dominant eras in the Bavarian club's history?

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The 2012 Champions League was as good as already in Bayern's hands. All they had to do was turn up at their own Allianz Arena home and beat the Blues in the 'Finale Dahoam' to spark city-wide celebrations. Or that's how it was supposed to happen, at least.

The script, however, would be torn to shreds by a callous Chelsea side. One of the most fêted nights in Bayern's history transformed into one of their worst nightmares in front of the expectant eyes of the majority of the 62,500 spectators inside the Allianz Arena.

As Bayern Munich and Chelsea emerged for the 2012 UEFA Champions League final, a home choreography read 'our city, our stadium, our cup'. - Alex Livesey/Getty Images

And yet, it may even have done them a favour in the long term. Since that night, Bayern's name is the only one to have been inscribed on the Bundesliga Meisterschale, while they got their hands on Europe's ultimate prize just 12 months later.

The Chelsea defeat was, after all, a particularly punishing blow.

The first European trophy in 12 years was already on display in their own living room. It just needed to be moved from beside the pitch into the trophy cabinet. Easy. With over 80 per cent of the fans on their side, ready to celebrate the biggest party in the stadium's history, there was a sense of inevitability about that balmy May evening in Munich.

The victory parade from the stadium to the city centre had already been planned, temporary barriers to close streets to traffic were in place. Bayern arrived at their home already stomaching two disappointments, having lost the Bundesliga by eight points to Borussia Dortmund and been beaten by Jürgen Klopp's Westphalians 5-2 in the DFB Cup final a week earlier.

A third major disappointment was unimaginable.

Instead, they had a perfect opportunity for redemption, and to end their season on the most positive of notes.

Moving the UEFA Champions League trophy from its pitch-side pedestal to Bayern Munich's trophy cabinet was the plan for the night of 19 May 2012. - Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Chelsea, on the other hand, were coming to the end of a turbulent season which had seen them finish sixth in the Premier League and, consequently, left them without the prospect of Champions League football to look forward to in 2012/13. Unless they won in Munich.

Andre Villas-Boas had been sacked in March, with the reins passed to former player Roberto Di Matteo for his first ever experience as a head coach. Beating Barcelona in the semi-finals had already created one of the greatest shocks in recent Champions League history and few were expecting them to be more than sacrificial lambs in Munich.

When Thomas Müller turned Bayern's domination into the opening goal in the 83rd minute, the trophy was as good as theirs. "That was that," said current Chelsea coach Frank Lampard, who was the Blues' captain that night.

It wasn't. Didier Drogba headed in an equaliser with practically Chelsea's first serious attempt on goal all night, taking the game to extra-time.

From hero to villain, a foul by Drogba on Franck Ribery awarded Bayern their second match point, with a penalty midway through extra-time. Arjen Robben stepped up to the spot, the anticipation rising. Petr Cech choked those cheers of joy as they rose the throats of Bayern's fans by making a save. "That was the moment when you thought destiny was on your side," added Lampard.

Arjen Robben saw his extra-time penalty saved by Petr Cech, in one of the many pivotal moments in the 2012 UEFA Champions League final in Munich. - Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Juan Mata missed Chelsea's first penalty of the shoot-out, with Philipp Lahm, Mario Gomez and Manuel Neuer – yes, the goalkeeper Manuel Neuer – all converting theirs for Bayern. Lampard held his nerve to make it 3-2, but if Ivica Olic scored Bayern's fourth, Chelsea would have been down to their last life. Cech saved, Ashley Cole levelled and, suddenly, the pressure was back on Bayern.

Bastian Schweinsteiger sent his spot-kick against the post, allowing Drogba to plunge the Allianz Arena into an eerie silence for the second time that night.

"We had three match points," said Bayern's CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. "First, when we were leading in the 83rd minute. Then, when we had a penalty in extra-time. And then again, when we were ahead after three penalties. Yet we didn't make it."

It took Bayern many weeks and months to get over the shock. At the start of pre-season training for the 2012/13 campaign, the defeat was still the source of much conversation. The arrivals of Mario Mandzukic, Dante and Xherdan Shaqiri hinted at change, while the then club-record signing of Javi Martinez from Athletic Bilbao demonstrated how keen Bayern were on drawing a line under the disappointment and moving in with a vengeance.

Rather than celebrating victory, the Bayern Munich fans had to stomach one of the bitterest of pills in the club's history - Nadine Rupp/Bongarts/Getty Images

Move on is exactly what they did. "Maybe that defeat was what motivated us all for what followed," said former captain Lahm, who just 12 months later lifted the Champions League at Wembley Stadium, and then got his hands on the FIFA World Cup as captain of Germany in 2014.

A 2-1 win over Dortmund in the DFL Supercup was a demonstrative first step towards redemption. Eight straight Bundesliga wins, with 26 goals scored and just two conceded, ensured few were still talking about Chelsea come mid-October. A convincing 6-1 win over Lille in the Champions League was another unambiguous message of their intent.

Bayern were simply unstoppable that season as Jupp Heynckes guided them to their 22nd Bundesliga title, 16th DFB Cup and – crucially – fifth Champions League. From the ashes of a dream that had smouldered so sorely rose the first German club ever to win a treble.

Watch: Bayern’s treble-winning 2012/13 season

Victory in the UEFA Supercup followed, with the FIFA Club World Cup also finding its way into Bayern's bulging trophy cabinet. They reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in four straight seasons, only last year failing to make it at least to the final eight for the first time since 2011.

Bayern now have 28 Bundesliga titles and 19 DFB Cups and as they head to Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, those memories of 19 May 2012 now transformed. Certainly, the disappointment is still strong, but the realisation that, without that particular low point, they may never have scaled the heights they have since reached means they may even owe a debt of gratitude to the Londoners.

Bayern garnered strength from that moment of vulnerability, and they are continuing to enjoy the positive effects as they prepare to prolong their current Champions League campaign against the club who taught them the cruellest, yet one of the most enlightening lessons in their history.