Bayern Munich made their third time the charm in the most dramatic of circumstances as they beat Borussia Dortmund, 2-1, to win the Champions League after twice suffering final heartbreak in the past three seasons. There was special significance too in Arjen Robben getting an 89th minute winner after the Dutchman had missed a penalty in last year’s painful final defeat on home soil to Chelsea.
In one of the best climaxes to Europe’s premier competition in recent memory, Bayern had taken the lead on the hour mark through striker Mario Mandzukic. But Dortmund, who more than played their part in a thrilling occasion at Wembley Stadium, soon struck back through Ilkay Gundogan’s penalty. With extra time on the horizon Robben made amends for a series of first-half misses as he stroked the ball past Roman Weidenfeller in the Dortmund goal.
It has been Dortmund that began the brighter before Bayern got a foothold and began creating chances of their own. Only some excellent saves from both goalkeepers and some less than clinical finishing kept the match scoreless at the break. But the second half added goals to the end-to-end entertainment, with Bayern getting the edge to lift the European Cup for the first time in 12 years and the fifth time in their history.
Dortmund had come out with their high energy pressing and counter-attacking game which proved too much for Bayern in the opening 25 minutes. As early as the 10th minute, Jakub Blaszczykowski threatened Manuel Neuer’s goal with a powerful shot from the edge of the box that went over the crossbar.
Soon after Robert Lewandowski, who many expect to soon be a Bayern player, showed he was in lively form with a curled effort from 25 yards that Neuer tipped over the top. It was to prove the first of several good saves that Neuer would be forced to make. One of the best came as he saved a low near-post effort from Blaszczykowski with his left leg.
And when Lewandowski again demonstrated his ability to turn his marker in the box, which was so in evident when scoring four times against Real Madrid, Neuer once more blocked down low.
To the midway point the half, Bayern must have had unwelcome memories of the five consecutive defeats Dortmund inflicted upon them as they dominated the German scene between 2010 and 2012. But Jupp Heyncke’s side soon began to turn their greater possession into chances. Yet, like Dortmund, the Bavarians found the opposition goalkeeper rising to the occasion.
After showing his alertness to tip over a strong header from Mandzukic, Roman Weidenfeller appeared to be making it his personal mission to bring more final anguish to Robben. After last year’s heartbreak, the Dutchman was enduring another showpiece occasion to forget.
On two occasions he beat Dortmund’s offside trap down the right, but each time failed to find the net in large part due to his unwillingness and inability to use his weaker right foot. The first dinked effort was blocked by the midriff of Weidenfeller, while the defense was able to recover to keep him away from goal on the second. There was to be a third chance too right before the interval. After a misjudgment by Mats Hummels, again Robben failed to take advantage, this time his shot kept at bay by Weidenfeller’s face.
Bayern came out with renewed composure after the break and within 15 minutes made the breakthrough. Mandzukic, who has enjoyed such a fine debut season in Munich had just missed a second headed opportunity before the Croatian found the net in the biggest match of his career. Again Robben got clean through on goal and looked like he had spurned the chance as he was forced wide by Weidenfeller, but this time he recovered the situation with a low cross that just evaded a Dortmund defender on the line and reached Mandzukic to tap into the unguarded net.
At that point it looked as if Bayern could put the game beyond doubt with a second, but a moment of madness from Dante saw Dortmund pull level just eight minutes after going behind. The Brazilian made a ridiculously clumsy tackle as he lifted his foot into the midriff of Reus, giving the referee a simple decision to point to the spot.
Gundogan coolly stuck it low to Neuer’s left, sending the Germany number one the wrong way and Jurgen Klopp into raptures on the sidelines.
The closing stages were set fair for something spectacular and that’s exactly what the millions of fans watching across the globe got. First came one of the most-spectacular goal-line clearances ever witnessed. Bayern had looked certain to score when Thomas Muller went around Weidenfeller and hit the ball across goal where Robben was arriving to surely tap home at the far post, but, with the Dutchman lacking conviction, Neven Subotic arrived out of nowhere to perform a desperation clearance off the line.
Still, it was Bayern that were looking the likelier side to grab a winner, with David Alaba and Bastian Schweinsteiger each having efforts battered away by the excellent Weidenfeller. But Bayern and Robben would not be denied this time.
With time ticking toward an extended 30 minutes, Ribery did just enough to hold off the challenges from a long ball to the edge of the Dortmund box and Robben took over, skipped past two challenges before just nudging the ball past Weidenfeller to claim his and Bayern’s redemption.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.