AT THE last blast of Nicola Rizzoli’s whistle, four Dortmund players hit the floor simultaneously, as if a sniper in the stand had taken them out with one magic bullet instead of Arjen Robben, the real marksmen, who had done the job with one golden goal, a finish of poise and brilliance that broke Dortmund’s resistance and elevated these Bayern players to the pantheon of legends.
Scorers: Bor Dortmund: Gundogan (67 pen); Bayern Munich: Mandzukic (60) Robben (89)
With a minute left of a Champions League final that was good for the soul, if not the heart, Robben seized on a flick from Franck Ribery and went on an inexorable path to glory, rounding Mats Hummels, eluding Neven Subotic and cushioning the ball low to Roman Weidenfeller’s left.
There was not enough time for Dortmund respond. They had the stomach for the fight but not the minutes on the clock. On Friday, their inspirational manager, Jurgen Klopp, said that there is no shame when people almost get to Everest only to turn back 10 metres from the top. At least they tried, he said. They did. They just came up against a side with too much power, form and desire. Having lost two Champions League finals in the last three years, and five of their last six, this was the evening it all came right, the night that last year’s grievous loss on penalties to a lesser side, Chelsea, was avenged. Bayern deserved to win.
They will now play for an unprecedented treble when facing Stuttgart in next weekend’s German Cup final. Beyond that, it’s retirement for Jupp Heynckes, their epoch-defining manger. Surely there has been no sweeter farewell in football than this.
Bayern are the team of the season, right enough. They have broken all German records and last night they had to break a team that came here with no fear. Klopp had spoken of how Dortmund could win, saying that they had to drag Bayern down to their level and once they got them there they could beat them. The dragging down process involved endless harrying and hustling, boundless energy and a throttling of Munich at source before they ever got a chance to find space and create mayhem. Klopp knew what his team had to do – and they did it, in the beginning at least.
Before the champions took hold of the game, they were choked out of it. The ruggedness of Ilkay Gundogan and Sven Bender and the quick-silver attacking of Jakub Blaszczykowski and Marco Reus, who was every inch the world class player. Dortmund went at the favourites’ jugular and the favourites had nothing to offer but a goalkeeper in a mood of defiance. It was enough. For a long time, it was their everything.
In the opening 25 minutes, Dortmund went knocking, knocking and knocking again. Robert Lewandowski’s shot was tipped over the top by Manuel Neuer. Soon after, Reus stroked a cross in from the right to Blaszczykowski at the near post, the Pole’s flick goalwards being kicked away by Neuer in a moment of high panic for the Bayern defence.
It was as if they had been taken by surprise by Dortmund’s intensity. This was the fifth time they’d met this season, but it was different. That was what Klopp had said on Friday. So much familiarity between these two teams and yet this was a unique occasion, a first meeting in many ways, not a fifth.
The question was for how long Dortmund could sustain their manic pressing game without getting tired and vulnerable. They came and came. Reus fired one at Neuer from distance, then Bender did the same with precisely the same result. That was four attempts on target in quick time and nothing from Bayern. They were getting no space, no joy and finding no weakness in Dortmund’s shape. The concentration level of Klopp’s team was extraordinary.
Could this one-way traffic last the night? Of course not. Bayern were like a boxer on the ropes but there was a certainty that they would soon bounce off them and attack.
They got a foothold but the goal was a while coming. They created – and they missed. Ribery’s cross should have been thundered home by Mario Mandzukic but the Croat’s header was tipped on to the crossbar by Weidenfeller. Likewise, Javi Martinez. Another header from a more advantageous position, this one bulleted over. Now it was Robben’s turn, a one-on-one with Weidenfeller after Muller’s pass and a shot brilliantly saved by the goalkeeper. Later, Robben would be staring down the barrel again – and slapping his shot flush in to Weidenfeller’s face.
Colossal stuff. A final that lived up to every expectation and then some. All it lacked was goals, but they came soon enough. On the hour, Bayern finally broke down the Dortmund door, Robben creating it wonderfully through his link with Ribery and then his movement around Weidenfeller on the right-hand side of his six-yard box to create the space to square for his striker who tucked it away. Weidenfeller tried to stop the ball coming across. So did Marcel Schmelzer. Neither could do it. Bayern had their lead.
Thrillingly, they quickly lost it. The penalty that brought Dortmund level was clearcut, the only debating point being the perpetrator, Dante, remaining on the pitch after he’d clumsily kicked Reus in the stomach. He should have been off. Having missed a penalty a few weeks back against Bayern, Lewandowski was spared the job. Instead, the exquisite Gundongan took it and sent Neuer the wrong way.
We inched towards the end and Dortmund were hanging on. Only a spectacular goal-line clearance from Subotic denied Muller, or the in-rushing Robben, a certain goal. Only fine saves from Weidenfeller denied David Alaba and Bastian Schweinsteiger. It wouldn’t last. Robben settled it in a way that a final of this class ought to have been settled, with a magisterial finish. Bayern keep tearing up the record books and writing a brand new history.