Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bayern juara! Robben Hero!!

Arjen Robben provided the perfect answer to his doubters by scoring an 89th-minute winner to settle a high-quality Champions League final as Bayern Munich beat Borussia Dortmund at Wembley.

The goal came 12 months after Robben's lowest point, when he missed the penalty that would have beaten Chelsea – who went on to claim the trophy in a penalty shoot-out on Bayern's own ground.

That agony was forgotten as Bayern joined Liverpool as five-times winners of Europe's most prestigious competition, leaving Borussia Dortmund in tears after their magnificent effort went unrewarded.

Neither side deserved to lose an outstanding game, and no neutral would have complained if it had gone to extra time.

That the opening period ended goalless was a wonder in itself, but the reason was inspired performances from goalkeepers Manuel Neuer and Roman Weidenfeller, along with the profligacy of Robben.

In the opening 25 minutes, as the yellow Dortmund shirts buzzed around furiously, Neuer was Bayern's hero. Germany's number one keeper tipped over a long-range Robert Lewandowski effort, turned away Jakub Blaszczykowski's low shot with his feet, and also denied Sven Bender.

Slowly though, the contest began to turn. Mario Mandzukic reacted with fury when Robben went for goal rather than square the pass that would have left him with a tap-in, only to see Weidenfeller make the first of his series of splendid saves.

From the corner, Weidenfeller tipped Mandzukic's header over the crossbar before the excellent Javi Martinez saw an effort go just over.

Just before the break, Lewandowski found room inside the Bayern area to squeeze in a shot which Neuer saved and launched a counter-attack from.

Through a fortunate bounce and Mats Hummels losing his bearings, Robben found himself face-to-face with Weidenfeller. Again, the Dortmund keeper won the personal duel.

It was impossible to imagine the goalless stalemate continuing. And even though some of the earlier zip was missing when the sides reconvened, it did not.

After leading an attacking raid, Robben drifted quietly into space as Franck Ribery assessed his options. A burst of pace later, Ribery had flicked the ball to his fellow wide-man, drawing Weidenfeller from his line. Robben found Mandzukic inside the six-yard box, and he steered the ball home.

Soon afterwards, Dante paid the price for an ill-advised attempt at a clearance as he succeeded only in kicking Marco Reus in the stomach. Ilkay Gundogan did the rest to equalise from the penalty spot.

There was no debating the decision but, as Dante had previously been booked, there was a strong argument that the Brazilian deserved a red card.

Not that there was any time to debate the issue as Neven Subotic miraculously got back to hook Muller's cross away from almost on the line before Weidenfeller flung himself in the way of David Alaba's effort.

Muller was convinced he should have had a penalty when he went down under Subotic's challenge, but he didn't get one.

Then Bastian Schweinsteiger was next to find Weidenfeller getting in the way of one of his shots.

But Bayern need not have worried. With extra-time looking certain, Ribery managed to force a backheel through a crowd of defenders inside the Dortmund box. Robben charged on to it and kept his cool to evade a couple of despairing tackles before rolling the ball past Weidenfeller to send Munich into ecstasy.

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