Munich: Chelsea's suspended captain John Terry missed the club's penalty shoot-out victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final on Saturday but still described the win as the best moment of his career. The central defender was ruled out of the match at the Allianz Arena after being sent off in the semi-final second leg in Barcelona.
"This is an incredible feeling," Terry told reporters after Chelsea won the shoot-out 4-3 following a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes. "I've waited eight or nine years for this moment and it wipes out all those bad memories from this competition. It's 100 percent the top moment in my career."
The stunning victory at Bayern's home ground had made up for previous heartbreak in the Champions League, he said.
"In the past we've been knocked out in the last minute, lost on penalties to Manchester United in the 2008 final and twice we lost to Liverpool in the semi-finals, but this victory takes a big weight off everyone's shoulders," added Terry. "I can live with the fact I didn't play because we have won. That's all that matters to me because I care so much about this football club."
Terry thanked European soccer's ruling body UEFA for allowing him to join the team in the post-match celebrations and letting him lift the biggest trophy in European club football.
"To be involved was incredible," said the former Chelsea youth team product. "If I hadn't been involved, it would have been very hard to take. Credit to UEFA for making the right decision to allow all four of our suspended players to be involved."
Even when Chelsea looked down and out earlier in the competition, Terry said he had faith his team could land the Champions League trophy for the first time.
"You look back at the Napoli game in the first knockout round when we were 3-1 down from the first leg," he said. "Everyone wrote us off but I believed in us and within the squad we all believed in each other. It's great we've got so many big players for big occasions, players like Didier Drogba, Fernando Torres, Frank Lampard and Petr Cech."
While his teammates had no doubt been under immense pressure on the pitch against the Germans, Terry said it was more difficult to look on from the sidelines than to be in the thick of the action.
"It's probably harder watching. You know then what the fans go through and it's really frustrating," he said. "But it's great to see us win the trophy I think we have deserved, to see the smile that was on owner Roman Abramovich's face after the game and to see the fans at the end."
"We've won the Champions League and the FA Cup this season, so we we'll go down as the best ever team in Chelsea's history and that's incredible."
Teammate Lampard shared his skipper's thoughts. "It's the best footballing night of my life - the hour we spent on the pitch with the fans afterwards. I've been here 11 years and I've been waiting for this baby for a long time. I'm pleased we haven't won it before, because it feels even more special. That might sound stupid but, to wait so long and to do it the way we did with the season we've had, the spirit in the team - amazing."
Lampard, who captained in the absence of Terry, began to think there was no way back for Chelsea as the minutes ticked down with Bayern Munich leading 1-0, but when the match went to a penalty shoot-out he had no doubts the trophy was coming to London.
"I admit when we were trailing 1-0 with about a minute left, I wasn't so sure," said Lampard. "Once it went to penalties, I thought there was no way we were going to lose. I thought, we are going to win this."
Lampard's confidence was remarkable given the circumstances. Bayern had never lost a penalty shoot-out in Europe, Chelsea had never won one, and the German side were at home and taking the spot-kicks in front of their own fans after captain Philip Lahm won the toss.
A glance through the record books showed no English team had beaten a German one on penalties either.
But Lampard said the heartbreak of losing in the final four years ago to Manchester United on penalties spurred his team to victory.
"It wasn't going to be a repeat of Moscow, we couldn't have stood that again," he added.
Thomas Mueller headed Bayern ahead in the 83rd minute before Didier Drogba made it 1-1 in the final two minutes. The night still seemed to be heading Bayern's way when they moved 3-1 ahead in the penalty shoot-out after Juan Mata missed Chelsea's first spot-kick.
However, Ivica Olic missed for Bayern and when Schweinsteiger struck the post the stage was set for Ivorian Drogba to write his name into Chelsea folklore and stun Bayern's supporters into shocked silence.
Chelsea not only stopped Bayern winning the title for a fifth time, they also became the first London side to win Europe's top club competition in its 57-year history and the third English team to beat Bayern after Aston Villa in 1982 and Manchester United in 1999.
"I really wasn't sure there was a way back and I was thinking well, perhaps it wasn't meant to be after all ... then Didier equalised with a minute to go and Petr [Cech] saved Arjen Robben's penalty in extra-time and I thought, 'we are going to do this'," said Lampard.
"And when the penalties started I was sure."
Asked if this victory could mark the break-up of a side that have largely been together for most of the last decade, he said: "No, I don't see why it should. Teams are always changing, but why should we stop now? We want to carry on, move forwards. We've won the FA Cup and now the Champions League and the determination and spirit we have shown, its been fantastic."