Bayern Munich exorcised the demons of cup final failures with a last-gasp win in the Champions League final.
Finals have a tendency to be anticlimaxes, but when the final whistle blew on Saturday’s Champions League final no such complaints could be made as soccer fans across the globe had just witnessed one of the most pulsating European Cup finals in recent memory.
In a high octane game filled with skill, passion and drama, it was only fitting that last year’s ‘villian’ Arjen Robben should play the part of ‘hero’ this time round with a 89th minute goal to help Bayern secure their fifth European Cup.
Bayern’s record in European finals did not bode well for them—the German champions had lost five of their last six European Cup finals, including two finals in the last three years. Nevertheless, they entered the final confident and determined to cast aside their tag as chokers.
The German Champions started Saturday’s final as overwhelming favorites after destroying Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate in the semi-finals, but knew better than to underestimate their opponents Borussia Dortmund.
In fact, Jurgen Klopp’s side will no doubt feel they missed a fantastic opportunity as they failed to capitalize on a first half hour of superiority over Bayern, with German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer coming to their rescue on several occasions.
Bayern’s record in recent finals had seen them earn the tag of ‘chokers’ and the occasion seemed to get to them again as they made a lackluster start to the game.
The Bavaraians looked clearly rattled in the early stages, as Dortmund deployed their high-tempo pressing style to good effect, smothering and forcing Bayern to play long balls in the early stages.
Bayern keeper Neuer made a series of top class saves in the first 35 minutes, thwarting Robert Lewandowski twice and saving superbly at his near post from Reus. Reus then had another attempt with Neuer once again up to the task.
Dortmund coach Klopp was at his animated best encouraging his side forward from the touchline in the hope that they might make their superiority count.
But Bayern survived the storm, gradually asserted their control over the game and could have actually gone in at the half a goal up with Robben wasting a glorious one-on-one opportunity.
In fact, Bayern and Robben might have been thinking it was going to be one of those nights again when Weidenfeller tipped Mandzukic’s header on to the bar and once again denied the Dutchman from a one-on-one situation.
Robben has not excelled in finals in the past—at the 2010 World Cup he missed a glorious one-on-one for Holland as they finished runners-up to Spain after a 1-0 defeat in extra-time, and in last year’s Champions League final he missed a penalty in extra-time that would have earned Bayern victory—but the Dutch winger ended his cup final jinx by creating the game’s opening goal on the hour mark.
Ribery slid a ball through the left side of the box for Robben, who took a touch and then crossed past the onrushing Weidenfeller for Mandzukic to tap into an empty net from six-yards out.
Dortmund responded and were rewarded for their endeavor seven minutes later thanks to some reckless defending from Dante.
The Brazilain defender, who was already booked, raised his foot and landed his studs into Reus’s stomach. The foul should have been a mandatory second yellow card, but Italian referee, Nicola Rizzoli, perhaps not wishing to spoil the occasion awarded just a penalty—a decision that no doubt would have swung the game in Dortmund’s favor, who would have played the remainder of the game against 10 men. As it was, Gundogan dispatched his penalty coolly from the penalty spot to set up a blockbuster end to the final.
The final ten minutes were crammed full of action, tension and drama, all of which were captured during the moment Subotic threw himself and extended his body at full length to hook Thomas Müller’s effort off the line— resulting in adrenaline packed fist-pumping from Dortmund’s coach Klopp.
But Bayern were not to be denied, and when Robben found himself in his third one-on-one in the final minute, after a hopeful back-heel from Ribery, he made it third time lucky for both himself and Bayern.
Match winner and man of the match Arjen Robben
“You don’t want the stamp of a loser.”
“There was all the disappointment of last year but I personally also had the World Cup. That was three finals.“
“It wasn’t so much pressure. I tried to make it into positive energy. I couldn’t start thinking negatively, otherwise it would be too difficult. Tonight I scored the goal. We did it and we can forget about the other things.”
Bayern Coach Jupp Heynckes
“In the beginning we didn’t quite find our feet and compliments to Dortmund – they pressed forward and we didn’t find our rhythm. It was a difficult match for us, but we had a couple of chances before half-time and after it we took command. We were more advanced and created more opportunities – and it’s because of that second half that we earned the win.”
Dortmund Coach Jurgen Klopp
“I have to say congratulations to Bayern, of course – congratulations to Jupp Heynckes, I really think he deserves this trophy.”
“I saw it in the game and I was sure you can give a second yellow card and when I saw it on television I thought you had to give it. But in the history of football there were refereeing decisions worse than this. 11 against 10 after that we are the winner? I don’t know.”
“The only thing I can say, it was great. We really deserved to be in the final and we showed this tonight. It’s important for us. Our fans, it was brilliant what they did, the whole atmosphere in the stadium was brilliant. London’s the town of Olympic Games, it’s a sports town. We enjoyed all the Olympic Games, now this big event. It was great, the weather was good, everything is okay, only the result is so s**t that I cannot…. All the other things were great.”