Chelsea and Čech suffer penalty shootout disappointment in Champions League final

Petr Čech makes a save during the Champions League final soccer match against Manchester United

Manchester United overcame Chelsea on penalties in last night's Champions League final clash in Moscow. Czech goalkeeper Petr Čech played his part in the drama, saving a penalty in the shootout, but his club season with Chelsea has ultimately ended without silverware. Čech will now be hoping to put disappointment with his club side behind him as he looks ahead to the Czech Republic's participation in the European Championships this summer.

Cristiano Ronaldo,  top,  heads the ball to score the first goal in the match against Chelsea,  photo: CTK
A dramatic Champions League final ended 1-1 after normal time, as Manchester United had to wait until penalties to beat Chelsea in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium last night. The match featured Czech international goalkeeper Petr Čech, who put in an impressive performance in the Chelsea goal. As well as a couple of smart stops in normal time, he also kept out a penalty in the shootout, saving in style from English Premiership Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo. He was, however, unable to stop the United side eventually winning, and adding the most prestigious trophy in European club football to their domestic league triumph. I asked Paul Elliott, who played as a central defender for Chelsea himself in the early Nineties, what he made of the game.

Manchester United's Owen Hargreaves,  left,  is challenged by Chelsea's Ashley Cole during the Champions League final soccer match,  photo: CTK
"It was a fantastic game of football, a great advertisement for the premiership product in terms of entertainment, drama and excitement; there was some fantastic play by both teams. From Chelsea's point of view, I'm sure they're going to be devastated, but when it reaches the penalty stages, it is, in short, a lottery. Chelsea were very unlucky, but I think Manchester United's play, particularly in the first 45 minutes was just breathtaking."

Elliott also had the following to say about Čech's performances, both in this match and throughout the season, as well as his character and the attributes that make the Czech Number 1 such a well respected keeper in world football:

Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand,  top,  clatters in to Chelsea's Joe Cole during the Champions League final soccer match,  photo: CTK
"Čech is a world class goalkeeper. He's still in his mid-twenties; he does the great so easily and so wonderfully consistently. In my opinion he's probably been the best goalkeeper in the world for the last three years."

What do you think this will have done to his confidence? He's been on the losing side now in two cup finals this season and Chelsea were also pipped at the post in the league by Manchester United. Is he the sort of character who keeps upbeat and buoyant at times like this?

"He's formidable. Great players are formidable. They know that you do get your knock-backs in football. But they come back, they bounce back and they re-emerge. And Čech is made of proper stuff. He's a man's man, he's the real deal. He's an outstanding individual and a great, great player."

Petr Čech makes a save during the Champions League final soccer match against Manchester United
So you think he'll be absolutely fine going into the Euro 2008 Championships, he can put this behind him and concentrate on his work for the Czech Republic?

"I think he's a professional enough guy. He's been there he's gone the distance he knows what it takes, he's representing his country. He's a leading light back in the Czech Republic and in their team, and a vital component of the team. Obviously there'll be some natural disappointment, but I think the best thing for Čech now is to get away from it and just focus. To meet up with his national team and obviously carry on where he left off and go full steam ahead with Euro 2008."