by Richard Brook
Arjen Robben scored the winner, for Bayern Munich in the all -German Champions League final, at Wembley Stadium. In doing so Robben atoned for his fateful missed penalty in extra-time in the same fixture a year ago. Bayern’s victory ensured that they did not pick up the unwanted record of having lost more Champions League finals than any other club. The game appeared headed for extra-time when Robben was played through and kept the coolest of heads to calmly slot home and win the Champions League for Bayern.
The build up to the game was dominated by the absence through injury of Mario Gotze, currently of Dortmund, who is set for a big money move to Bayern Munich in the summer. Munich had midfield injury concerns of there own as the influential Bastian Schweinsteiger took a knock to his ankle during the warm up.
The first chance fell to Borussia Dortmund as Marco Reus’ cross from the right saw Robert Lewandowski control and shoot, but the proximity of Jerome Boateng saw the ball ricochet out for a corner, which was well cleared. Both sides continued to press the ball well and many moves broke down before reaching the opposition box. After ten minutes Bayern’s Arjen Robben passed to the feet of Franck Ribery just inside the Dortmund area with a space to shoot through, but the French man dwelt too long. At the other end, Jakub Blaszczykowski sought to play a one-two in the danger area. The ball bounced back to Blaszczykowski who blazed over.
Manuel Neuer, in the Bayern goal made a couple of smart stops first pushing a speculative Lewandowski effort from distance over the bar, then smartly turning Blaszczykowski’s effort, from eight yards, around his left hand post. Neuer was in action again in the 19th minute as Kevin Grosskreutz sent Reus haring through, to the left of centre, his powerful left footed drive was pushed behind once again, as Neuer dived to his right. Grosskreutz again looked to turn provider for Dortmund, passing the ball in low from the left wing, to Sven Bender. Bender’s shot lacked either pace or placement, as Neuer held comfortably.
Bayern came within a whisker of a lead, that would have been ill-deserved, as Ribery tore away down the left flank. His cross was perfectly hit for Mario Mandzukic but Roman Weidenfeller was on hand to tip the ball over the top, glancing the bar on its way. The resultant corner was headed inches over by Javi Martinez. Next Thomas Muller put Robben, who seemed desperate to atone for his costly penalty miss in last season’s final, clean through, on the half-hour, but Weidenfeller was quickly off his line, and Robben’s shot hit him, when others in Bayern shirts might have been better placed.
As the game headed towards half-time it was becoming more balanced, after Dortmund’s early dominance. Dortmund went close with Lewandowski’s neat turn to get away from Dante, but Neuer was out swiftly to deny him. Robben got away for Bayern and forced a corner, which he took himself but Muller’s mistimed jump led to a poor contact which took the ball away from team-mate Mandzukic. A late misunderstanding in Dortmund’s defence saw the ball drop to Robben again, but the advancing Weidenfeller wore the Dutchman’s shot full in the face, as the half played out scoreless.
The second half began with the resumption of the tenacity, from both teams, to deny their opponents time on the ball. The teams were showing plenty of endeavour and attacking intent, but both were defending from the front in such a manner as to force each other into errors in possession.
After the first ten minutes there had not been a chance to speak of in the second half, in stark contrast to the pattern of the first half, and you began to wonder how heavily it was playing on the minds of the Munich players that six of the ten goals they have conceded in the Champions League this year had come in the last 15 minutes.
Right on the hour mark Bayern took the lead as neat work between Ribery and Robben, on the left, saw too many Dortmund defenders drawn to the ball. Robben raced to the byline and committed Weidenfeller before knocking the ball back to Mandzukic, to turn the ball into the vacant net.
Just six minutes later as Reus chased a bouncing ball into the box, Dante stepped across and clumsily impeded him. The referee had no option and pointed to the spot. Ilkay Gundogan stepped forward and drilled the ball to Neuer’s left, as the keeper dived emphatically to his right, and Dortmund were level.
End to end breaks ensued and Mats Hummels came to Dortmund’s rescue as Muller had too much pace for Marcel Schmelzer. The ball looked to be going in and Robben was tracking it at the back post to make sure, when Hummels appeared from nowhere to clear off the line. In the 74th minute it was Bayern’s turn to be relived as Lewandowski smashed the ball emphatically beyond Neuer from the edge of the area, but was adjudged to have controlled the ball with his arm. A shot from similar distance from Bayern left-back David Alaba sent Weidenfeller sprawling to his left to palm the away.
With three minutes on the clock Bastian Schweinsteiger, smashed an effort towards goal from 20 yards but Weidenfeller dived to his right to punch clear. Yet more drama was still to come. Ribery, who was being held up on the edge of Dortmund’s area turned the ball round the corner into the path of Robben who rolled the ball beyond the keeper to win the Champions League for Bayern Munich.