Chelsea found redemption for the misery of Moscow and ended their long quest to win the Champions League by beating Bayern Munich on penalties in the Allianz Arena.
Di Matteo delivered a surprise in his starting line-up, with youngster Ryan Bertrand handed a role on the left flank in front of Cole in an attempt to stifle the threat of former Chelsea winger Arjen Robben.
On a night of gripping tension in Germany, the final went to a shoot-out after Didier Drogba’s late equaliser sent the game into extra-time then penalties, following Thomas Muller’s headed goal.
Petr Cech rescued Chelsea when he saved Arjen Robben’s penalty early in the extra period – then the great talisman Drogba took centre stage again as the drama of spot-kicks was played out at the end where Bayern’s fans watched in anguish.
Juan Mata missed Chelsea’s first penalty but David Luiz, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole were all successful. Philipp Lahm, Mario Gomez and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer were all on target for Bayern.
The momentum shifted decisively when Cech denied Ivica Olic and Bastian Schweinsteiger hit the post to leave Chelsea on the brink and present Drogba with his moment of destiny.
He was calmness personified as he rolled the ball past Neuer to spark scenes of elation among Chelsea’s players, staff and supporters. The tournament that had given them their greatest agony had now delivered their greatest glory.
This was a victory in the mould of Chelsea’s semi-final win against Barcelona, built on resilience, discipline, defensive organisation and nerve at the crucial times and done without the suspended Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires and Raul Meireles.
Chelsea’s blanket of defensive defiance served them well in the Nou Camp – and acted as a dress rehearsal for a first half spent almost entirely in their territory.
And while Chelsea were organised and resolute, they were also grateful that Bayern striker Gomez’s touch in front of goal deserted him at decisive moments.
Suspended captain John Terry joined the celebrations and lifted the trophy alongside Lampard but it was Drogba who was the hero, running the length of the pitch swirling his shirt above his head in triumph, with owner Roman Abramovich looking on as Chelsea finally claimed the prize he has craved for season upon season.
For Chelsea, there is just one remaining question – will Roberto di Matteo be offered the Chelsea job on a full-time basis? In less than 6 months, the Italian has transformed the London club’s season, giving the Russian owner the Champions League after so many painful failures.
It’s also hard to see how Drogba, now 34 but still able to produce the brilliance that defines big occasions, can be allowed to walk away as his contract reaches its conclusion.
Abramovich will leave the big decisions for another day, but this was a night he and his club have desired since he walked into Stamford Bridge – and ironically achieved with an interim manager he had to appoint after sacking his personal choice, Andre Villas-Boas.
This thrilling night is a historical moment for the London club. Chelsea have now won the biggest prize in European Club football, for the first time in their history. The Champions League will now head to Stamford Bridge.