Last night at the modern national stadium, Bayern and Dortmund delivered perhaps the finest final since Wembley reopened. Two years ago Barcelona staged a spectacular exhibition there but as a contest, this had at it all.
|Top of the pile: Bayern Munich are the Champions of Europe for a fifth time after beating Borussia Dortmund|
All around there were German lessons to absorb, from coaching development across the generations to the number of superb young German players developed through their federation’s emphasis on youth. Their clubs are owned by fans who seem to share a genuine bond with their team and it was all on show at the £750million stadium. They do the money so well in English football; shame about the substance.
At least they might claim something. The winning goal, scored in the 89th minute, was straight out of England: a hopeful long ball, dreadful confusion in defence as Franck Ribery back heeled and former Chelsea player Arjen Robben seized the loose ball to sway past two challenges and slip the ball past Roman Weidenfeller to end Bayern’s status as serial losers.
Robben stood and screamed at his own fans — a man who had missed a penalty that might have won the game in extra time last year. Some hurts were being healed.
|Big chances: The first-half was the tale of two goalkeepers with Roman Weidenfeller denying Arjen Robben twice, and Munich stopper Manuel Neuer keeping Robert Lewandowski out|
It was not quite the romantic result. Bayern are a financial juggernaut, with almost three times the income of their opponents. They take what they don’t have: Mario Goetze, Dortmund’s young star, was injured last night but will join Bayern this summer. Their outstanding striker, Robert Lewandowski, is likely to follow.
The pathos of the charismatic Jurgen Klopp leading his defeated heroes on a sad walkabout, greeted by a standing ovation and an overwhelming gratitude, was remarkable. ‘Everything we have done this season was brilliant,’ said Klopp.
‘The atmosphere in the stadium was brilliant, we enjoyed being in this Olympic town, the weather was great: only the result was s**t.’ Equally, it is hard not to feel a sense of elation for Jupp Heynckes, the 68-year-old Bayern coaching doyen.
|Controversy: Franck Ribery escaped punishment when his flailing arm caught Lewandowski in the face|
Once before he won this trophy, in 1998, with Real Madrid, and he lost his job. Next weekend he could win the Treble but again he will leave, replaced by the eminently more fashionable Pep Guardiola, though this time at his own behest. Still, it was some finale to win the club’s fifth European Cup.
The sheer energy of Dortmund was overwhelming — chances for Lewandowski, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Marco Reus and Sven Bender came and went — yet it couldn’t last. Eventually Bayern established a hold, Javier Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger recovering their poise in midfield. Weidenfeller got a great hand to Mario Mandzukic’s header after 27 minutes and then his fingers to a Robben strike three minutes later, when the Dutchman should have scored.
Thomas Muller then glanced a header wide before Robben got the better of Mats Hummels and, from eight yards out, prodded a shot that only Weidenfeller’s jutting jaw could block. It was quite breathless, exhilarating stuff and on the hour Bayern struck. Ribery charged down the left and fed Robben, who headed for the byeline, pulled back a cross and there, at close range, was Mandzukic to direct it in.
|Breakthrough: Robben finally wriggled free to set up Mario Mandzukic for the opener in the second half|
Muller, in full flow, rounded Weidenfeller and, with an open goal but a narrow angle, rolled the ball goal-wards. Neven Subotic raced backwards and hooked it away as Robben decided not to dive in.
|Arjen Robben sent Bayern on their way to Glory|
Still, Dortmund’s resistance was coming to an end. They survived until that 88th minute before their surrender. They could remain proud, though, as could the nation that provided the finalists.