[UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] Arjen Robben skipped through Borussia Dortmund’s defense in the 89th minute of the UEFA
Champions League final Saturday and snatched the winning goal for Bayern Munich at Wembley, bringing joy, catharsis and celebration to a player and a team that have experienced so much high profile
disappointment. With Pep Guardiola and Mario Goetze on board next year to join a club that has dominated all of Europe
this season, one must ask -- is this title thanks to a 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund only the beginning for Bayern?
THE GAME. There was concern coming in that this very appealing final could become a wrestling match between two rivals. What it became was very exciting, hotly contested and outside a flailing arm by Franck Ribery in the 26th minute, fairly clean, and neither coach made a substitution until the 90th minute.
Lightning combinations between Marco Reus and Robert Lewandowski kept favored Bayern Munich backpedaling in the first 25 minutes. Borussia Dortmund forced Manuel Neuer into more saves in the first 35 minutes, five, than he’d had in any game all season. But once the Bavarian behemoth grabbed a foothold in the final, the world’s best soccer team never let go.
Thomas Mueller and Javi Martinez began to get involved, but Robben shanking several golden opportunities was what stood out for Bayern, none better than the one he smashed off the face of Dortmund keeper Roman Weidenfeller late in the half. Both teams went to the break feeling they should’ve scored.
“We certainly felt the burden of being favorites in the first 20 minutes," Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes said. "We didn't get into the game in the first half so I corrected a few things at the interval."
Two stars who’ve spent most of their time in Munich on opposite wings set up the opening goal. Robben carried the ball from midfield, handed it off to Ribery, and the Frenchman put the bald Dutchman into the area, where he served up Mario Mandzukic’s tap in at the hour mark.
Minutes later, Reus drew contact from Bayern defender Dante in the box and Ilkay Gundogan beat Neuer with a strong penalty kick, tying the game in the 68th minute. Past failures by the Bavarian club instantly came to mind -- but it was Dortmund who started to fade.
"It was late in the game," Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp. "It was a really hard season for us, and I saw that from 75 minutes on.”
After a valiant effort, during which BVB exerted energy in its press, and with a thin bench holding no options, a momentary lapse at the back on a long pass was all it took for Robben to pounce on a loose ball and score a clutch late goal to win the Champions League final.
Often described as petulant and selfish, an enigma, and words much less complimentary in German, Robben gave himself and his teammates each a title that lasts forever -- European champion.
THE HISTORY. This was Bayern Munich’s fifth European Cup, its now tied with Liverpool for third most behind Real Madrid (9) and AC Milan (7) and on club soccer’s most exclusive list. Bayern will become the first German club ever to win the Bundesliga, German Cup and European Cup treble if it beats VfB Stuttgart in the German Cup final Saturday.
SIGHTS & SOUNDS. After Robben’s goal, he celebrated with his teammates and then approached Bayern’s rooting section, barking at them, seemingly exhorting the Munich faithful while chiding them at the same time for ever having doubted him. The 29-year-old Dutchman was in tears on the field after the whistle.
The mixture of emotions isn’t surprising; Robben has missed a host of opportunities on the biggest of stages. Robben was on Bayern’s losing teams in the 2010 and 2012 Champions League finals. He missed a penalty during overtime last May in Munich, and he had several chances to score for the Netherlands against Spain in the 2010 World Cup final that may have changed the outcome.
“So many emotions go through your head, especially because you know what it is like to lose,” Robben said after. "I think you can enjoy it even more when you win the title
May 25 in London
Bayern Munich 2 Borussia Dortmund 1. Goals: Mandzukic 60, Robben 89; Gundogan pen. 67.
Borussia Dortmund -- Weidenfeller, Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer, Bender (Sahin 90+1), Gundogan, Blaszczykowski (Schieber 90+1), Reus, Grosskreutz, Lewandowski.
Bayern Munich -- Neuer, Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba, Javi Martinez, Schweinsteiger, Robben, Muller, Ribery (Gustavo 90+1), Mandzukic (Gomez 90+4).
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)