Winning the UEFA Champions League is akin to conquering Mount Everest. Winning Europe’s top prize in club football 5 times is an extraordinary accomplishment that puts a club into legendary status. If they weren’t already, Bayern Munich have now cemented their status as a legendary club.
The Bavarians won their fifth European trophy with a thrilling 2-1 victory over German rivals Borussia Dortmund before a spellbound crowd at London’s Wembley Stadium. This is Bayern’s first Champions League title since 2001. They also won three straight titles in 1974, 1975 and 1976.
The match itself started somewhat slowly for Die Roten. Possession was in favour of Borussia Dortmund as they dictated the pace and flow in the first 20 minutes. Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer was brilliant between the sticks for Bayern, making critical saves on Jakub Blaszczykowski and Sven Bender.
Bayern’s first scoring opportunity happened in the 26th minute as Mario Mandzukic’s header was tipped over the bar by Dortmund keeper Roman Weidenfeller, who also was terrific in net for Dortmund.
Bayern continued their attacking ways as Arjen Robben beat the offside trap and broke through all alone on Weidenfeller, who made a wonderful save to keep the match level. Robben had one more chance before the first half but his point-blank shot found Weidenfeller’s face instead of the net. It may have stung the Dortmund keeper, but his teammates were relieved the game remained scoreless at the intermission.
The restart continued on the same trend as the first half ended. Bayern carrying the play, but at times being vulnerable to the dangerous Dortmund counter-attack. Finally right on the hour mark, Bayern broke through as Mandzukic finished off Robben’s low cross, after some quality service from Franck Ribery in the midfield.
With the first goal now counted for, it opened up the game and Borussia Dortmund responded. Only nine minutes later, Dortmund were rewarded with a penalty as Dante’s clumsy challenge on Marco Reus was correctly spotted by Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli. Ilkay Gundogan calmly stepped up and sent Neuer the wrong way from the spot, to level the score.
Bayern was feeling the pressure and pushed forward. Thomas Muller raced down the right flank and moved past Weidenfeller just outside the 18 yard box. Muller’s cross was almost certain to go in, until Neven Subotic slid across to sweep the ball off the goal line, just as Robben was about to make sure the ball found the back of the net. Not long after that, David Alaba left foot thumped one towards the goal, where Weidenfellen dove across to punch it away.
Finally in the 89th minute, Bayern found their glory. It started with Bastian Schweinsteiger showing some patience in the midfield. Schweinsteiger then let Jerome Boateng take charge of the procedings. His ball found Ribery, whose slight back heel was just enough to spring Robben through who slightly mishit the ball, but it was enough to freeze Weidenfellen and ripple the net to give Bayern Munich the title.
This win was especially gratifying for Bayern as they had lost the two times they appeared in the Champions League Final. In 2010, Ribery was suspended and Bayern were vanquished by Inter Milan. Last year, Bayern hosted the Final at their home stadium, Allianz Arena. However, it was Chelsea who came away with the silverware on penalties. In fact it was Robben who missed a penalty in extra time that ended up costing Bayern the title. So not only was this game redemption for Bayern, it was redemption for Robben who has been accused in the past of choking in the big game.
For Dortmund, while this was a heartbreaking defeat, they can take solace in that they built this team from near bankruptcy in only 5 years. Jurgen Klopp is an innovative manager who has the total support of his players. The big question going into the transfer window will be can they keep striker Robert Lewandowski? The Polish International has been linked to Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Chelsea in transfer rumours. One wonders if Dortmund will let their star striker leave, or risk financial meltdown to keep him.
For Bayern, the big change will come from the touchline. Jupp Heynckes is leaving the club at the end of the season, as former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola will take over the club in July. Bayern will also add more talent to their roster, plucking away Mario Gotze from Borussia Dortmund. (Gotze did not play due to a hamstring knock.)
Bayern Munich will have one more match, next weekend in the German Cup final against Stuttgart. If Bayern are successful, they will be the first German club to complete the treble. It will also mark one of the most successful seasons by any club in Europe.
So to that, time to lift your stein and say Prost to Bayern Munich. Deserving Champions of Europe!
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