Chelsea end Champions League agony in Munich
As Chelsea walked out into the Allianz Arena a giant red mosaic was revealed at one end that covered the entire expanse of the massed ranks of Bayern Munich's support.
The message - with a Champions League trophy as its centrepiece - read: "Unser Stadt. Unser Stadion. Unser Pokal." Our City. Our Stadium. Our Cup.
Hours later, at a cost of around one billion pounds, Munich was Chelsea and owner Roman Abramovich's city. The Allianz Arena was their stadium and - most significantly of all - the Champions League was their cup at long last.
And for the thousands of Chelsea fans who lived the dream and saw redemption for the misery of Moscow and defeat by Manchester United on penalties in 2008, who despaired of winning the trophy that seemed out of reach of even Abramovich's chequebook, there were emotions and memories money simply cannot buy.
Abramovich's accountants will tell you the cost of this victory. For the fans who have endured the often painful journey to eventual triumph, this experience was beyond price.
When Roberto di Matteo walked into his post-match briefing at 1.16am boasting the greatest record any interim manager will ever have, the pain consistently inflicted on Chelsea by the Champions League had been erased by football's most potent medicine: victory.
Chelsea exorcised the demons of 2008 by defeating Bayern on their home turf. Photo: Getty
When Didier Drogba, inevitably, calmly rolled the winning spot-kick past Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer to confirm a 4-3 win on penalties, the years of frustration gushed out of Chelsea's players, staff and supporters in torrents.
Drogba swirled his shirt around his head in triumph after racing the length of the field, Fernando Torres and David Luiz rode the crossbar with all the joy of Grand National winners and Abramovich himself even clapped and took part in a self-conscious singalong that almost qualified as an emotional outpouring from this most secretive, yet ruthlessly interventionist, oligarch.
If that penalty was Drogba's final touch for Chelsea, if the late header in normal time that equalised Thomas Mueller's strike for Bayern was his final goal, then it will be the most decisive and most celebrated sign-off in Stamford Bridge history.
Drogba was as difficult to pin down off the pitch as he was on it as he skirted around the subject of his future after receiving his man-of-the-match award. He will soon be out of contract and no new deal is in sight but it was, as Di Matteo said when asked about his future, a matter for another day.
Di Matteo even declined to reveal what Abramovich said as the pair embraced at the top of a flight of steps moments before Chelsea received the giant trophy for the first time in their history.
On an atmospheric night in a wonderful stadium nicknamed "The Inflatable Boat" because of its futuristic design, Chelsea occasionally threatened to go under but eventually arrived safely at Abramovich's chosen destination.
And those who have been in pretty much from the start all made defining contributions to the greatest night Chelsea have ever had. The club that is incorrectly mocked for not having history - remember they won a European trophy before even Liverpool when they beat Real Madrid to claim the Cup Winners' Cup in 1971 - had written a thrilling new chapter in their story.
Drogba, the leader and talisman, wrote his name in folklore with his deeds. Goalkeeper Petr Cech has suffered all the highs and lows of Chelsea's Champions League quest and in Munich he was immense, saving Arjen Robben's penalty at the start of extra time and from Ivica Olic in the shoot-out.
And for Frank Lampard, the exemplary professional who has epitomised all that is good about a team that can struggle to win friends, this was the ultimate night. Mature, composed and an inspirational captain in John Terry's absence, Lampard overcame the threat of Bayern's own midfield master Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Lampard has experienced the trials of traumas of European combat with Chelsea and has been a shining symbol of their success, so it was little surprise that his first reaction in the moment of victory was to race towards those jubilant masses to share the moment with them.
Rather like most of Chelsea's Champions League campaign, there was something fanciful about what unfolded on a balmy Munich night. And with it came evidence that, despite the questions some were quick to pose, they were truly worthy winners of this competition.
Chelsea were in the departure lounge after losing 3-1 away to Napoli in the last 16, but the sacking of manager Andre Villas-Boas and the appointment of Di Matteo was the catalyst for a truly remarkable chain of events that also brought the FA Cup.
They not only overturned that disadvantage against Napoli, they disposed of Benfica in the last eight, beat favourites Barcelona over two legs in the semi-final despite spending much of it without the ball then prevailed in a final played in Bayern's own backyard.
It was done with Terry, Ramires, Raul Meireles and Branislav Ivanovic all suspended and by coming back from losing a goal only seven minutes from time.
The defensive discipline, organisation and sheer nerve that saw them through in the Nou Camp was the template here. In David Luiz and Gary Cahill, back from injury, they had heroes. In the magnificent Ashley Cole they had a world-class player once again showing how he rises to the biggest occasion.
And in Di Matteo they had a manager who tapped into the special psyche contained behind the locked doors of Chelsea's complex dressing room to lay the foundations for these landmark months.
No doubt some purists will sniff at the stifling methods used in Barcelona and Munich but Di Matteo's response can be to ask anyone tempted to detract from their achievement to check the honours board for 2012. Chelsea are the champions of Europe.
Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes was, like their fans, remarkably generous and graceful in defeat while Di Matteo, normally sphinx-like in his press briefings, allowed himself to break into a beaming smile.
The fact that Chelsea finally won the Champions League when the odds were stacked so high against them appeared to make it even sweeter. And there was the added twist of the knife that victory meant London rivals Tottenham now have to drop down into the Europa League and are denied the riches the Champions League affords.
This was a night made special by Chelsea winning in such reduced circumstances, against obstacles placed in their way by suspensions and the psychological barrier of playing on their opponents' home ground.
It was a triumph of unbreakable spirit, and yes some good fortune, as Chelsea at last got their hands on the piece of silverware that at times seemed destined to elude both them and their owner's vast wealth forever.
As Chelsea's players started to savour their achievement ahead of a triumphant return to London on Sunday and fans celebrated way into the early hours, Munich was their city and the Champions League was their cup. The agony was over.