"I almost get the impression that tonight was even more brutal, even bitterer, than losing in Barcelona in 1999, when we led 1-0 and conceded in the 89th and 92nd minutes." In the early hours of Sunday morning, FC Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge struggled to get his words out at the club's post-match dinner following Bayern's penalty shoot-out heartbreak to Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League Final at the Allianz Arena.
So many had expected this to be Bayern Munich's year to reclaim the title they last won in 2001. They had managed to upset the odds and beat Real Madrid over two legs, needing another penalty shoot-out themselves in the Bernabeu a few weeks ago. They had reached a second final in three seasons, this time with a more experienced, if slightly depleted, team. And they were contesting the final on their home ground. It seemed somehow fated that Germany's most successful club would clinch a fifth European crown and become the first team to win the competition on home soil in the Champions League era. Instead, the primary emotion on the faces of directors, players, coaches and fans of the club was utter devastation.
In truth, this was a game that should have been won by the home side. Bayern out-passed (790 to 633), out-shot (35-9) and generally outplayed Roberto Di Matteo's Chelsea team. They had 20 corners to Chelsea's one and enjoyed 56% of possession. But they simply didn't put their chances away. Striker Mario Gomez, lauded for his goals record, but pilloried in equal measure for his poor strike rate, was particularly profligate in the first half, while Arjen Robben totalled 16 efforts on goal alone, including a missed penalty. Franck Ribéry also had a goal disallowed for offside early on in the second half.
The elusive goal did arrive eventually for the hosts, when Thomas Müller forced a downward header past Petr Cech at the near post to spark wild scenes among the club's most fervent supporters in the Südkurve and leave Bayern seven minutes from lifting the biggest prize in European club football. But three minutes before the end, Jerome Boateng lost Didier Drogba at a corner and Chelsea's man for the big occasions popped up with a powerful equalising header.
In extra time, Bayern continued to make most of the running and had the two best chances to win the game before it reached a penalty shoot-out. Robben was presented with a golden chance to put his team 2-1 up in extra time, but his poor penalty was saved by Petr Cech after Drogba's needless trip on Ribéry.
The penalty shoot-out looked to be going the same way as Bayern's recent experience against Real Madrid. Captain Philipp Lahm, Gomez and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer all coolly converted whilst Juan Mata easily had his effort saved by the imposing Neuer. The tide turned as Croatian substitute Ivica Olic had his effort saved by the inspired Cech as the scores were tied at 3-3 after four penalties each.
The fifth Bayern penalty was left to Bastian Schweinsteiger, a living symbol of the club and the man whose spot-kick in the Bernabeu had put the Reds in the final. Faced with Cech, however, he inexplicably stalled his run-up and then struck the ball, with the keeper guessing the right way, exactly as he had done against Cristiano Ronaldo against Manchester United in the 2008 final in Moscow. As Schweinsteiger trudged crestfallen and head buried in his shirt back towards the halfway line, Drogba strode forward to take the fifth and decisive penalty. He converted, and Bayern had been beaten 'at their own game in their own back yard', as one TV commentator said.
The Bayern fans in the stadium headed for the exits very quickly, while their players were distraught on the pitch. Schweinsteiger was inconsolable; Robben had his head in his hands; Gomez sat silently on the turf with his back to the Chelsea players walking up the steps for the presentation; Jupp Heynckes and Anatoliy Tymoschchuk were pacing the pitch and staring into the ground. It provided a stunning contrast to the Chelsea fans and players. A handful of supporters ran onto the pitch as Drogba sunk the final penalty, embracing their heroes before they were forced back into the stands by security. Elation was written on the face of every Chelsea fan, many of whom had probably been in Moscow to witness the torturous loss to Manchester United four years earlier.
The Blues put paid to the party atmosphere in Munich on Saturday night. Walking back from the stadium to the underground station, you could hear a pin drop as Bayern fans digested the devastation. Back in the city, the streets were strewn with Bayern fans. Most were walking like zombies, slightly drunk and very depressed. It's hard to imagine quite what the streets would have been like if Bayern had won the game.
Rummenigge spoke of three 'match points' that Bayern had failed to convert. They scored with seven minutes remaining in normal time, they had a penalty in extra time and they went 1-0 up in the shout-out. He used the phrase 'unbelievably painful', sentiments echoed by President Uli Hoeneß, who simply said: "To be honest, I still can't quite believe it." After he had taken some time to collect himself, Hoeneß went on to say that two seasons without a trophy wasn't good enough for Bayern. And he's absolutely right. The future looks far from certain for FCB. Heynckes is sure to find himself under pressure after failing to improve on Louis van Gaal's Champion League performance in 2010 and surrendering domestic dominance to Borussia Dortmund.
For the players, it is potentially a good thing that most of them can join up with the Germany squad now and focus on the UEFA European Championships in Poland and Ukraine. After the disappointment in the 2010 final, many of Bayern's players experienced a further defeat in the World Cup semi-final to Spain in South Africa. It remains to be seen how vulnerable they will feel now. One German team has already lost on penalties this season - to an English team no less. Who knows what will happen at the Euros.