x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Champions League: Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben finally finds redemption

After previous heartbreak, Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben scores game-winning goal in the 89th minute to lift his team to a 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund and the Uefa Champions League title, writes Jonathan Wilson.

Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben, centre, celebrates his goal against Borussia Dortmund during their Champions League final victory at Wembley Stadium on Saturday night. Darren Staples / Reuters
Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben, centre, celebrates his goal against Borussia Dortmund during their Champions League final victory at Wembley Stadium on Saturday night. Darren Staples / Reuters

Borussia Dortmund 1 Bayern Munich 2

Borussia Dortmund Gundogan (pen) 68’

Bayern Munich Mandzukic 60’, Robben 89’

Man of the match Roman Weidenfeller (Dortmund)

London // Arjen Robben will have better games but he might not have one he remembers with such fondness.

After a nightmarish first half, the Dutch winger set up one goal and then scored the winner as Bayern Munich – at last – won their fifth Uefa Champions League.

After losing two finals in the last three years they were due their success. After finishing 25 points clear of Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga they probably deserved it. But it took an exhausting performance in a pulsating final before they earned it.

Against Bayern in Munich this season, Dortmund had changed from their 4-2-3-1 formation to a 4-3-3, looking to sit back and contain their opponents, rather than playing their usual transition game. But here the familiar pressing was back – used more selectively than in past seasons, perhaps, but ferocious when put into operation.

It gave Dortmund an early edge and, for the first quarter of the game, Bayern struggled for fluency.

But that sort of intensity cannot be maintained for a full game and, inevitably, Bayern began to threaten more as the game progressed.

Roman Weidenfeller, the Dortmund goalkeeper, tipped a Mario Mandzukic header against the bar and Bayern began to puncture Dortmund's backline.

Unfortunately for them, each of the three clear opportunities they created in the first half fell for Robben. He missed a penalty – and a host of other chances – in last year's final against Chelsea and has a habit of wobbling when the pressure is on.

And for a time again he seemed to buckle under the strain of the occasion. He would, though, have his redemption.

First he dinked a shot that Weidenfeller deflected wide when he might have squared for Mandzukic, then he hesitated in a good position with his teammate waiting, and next, as a ball over the top hit Mats Hummels and dropped to him, he smacked his shot into Weidenfeller's face.

Eventually, though, the Dutch winger did have a decisive influence, crossing – at last – for Mandzukic to tap in.

The move began with an awkward back-pass to goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who took the ball on his chest and cleared long.

Mystifyingly, Neven Subotic allowed Mandzukic to steal in front of him and work the ball left and, when it was played into the box, Robben had the touch and the awareness to skirt round Weidenfeller and pull the ball back behind left-back Marcel Schmelzer to leave the Croatian with a simple finish.

At that moment, Bayern seemed to be growing stronger but seven minutes later Dante swung a careless boot and caught Marco Reus in the midriff.

He was extremely fortunate to escape a second yellow card as a penalty was given and Ilkay Gundogan, who had been excellent all night, prompting from the back of midfield, swept home from 12 yards.

The blood of both sides, suddenly, was up, midfields vanished and there were chances at both ends. Subotic made an astonishing clearance to hook away a Thomas Muller effort as Robben lurked menacingly after a mistake from Weidenfeller had left the forward with an empty net to aim at.

On the touchline, Dortmund's manager, Jurgen Klopp, punched the air – but it was a temporary respite.

There is an unpleasant streak at times to this Bayern – pitched somewhere between cynicism and petulance – and Franck Ribery, denied a penalty after yet again going down easily, became the second of their players lucky to avoid a red card as he lashed out at Kevin Grosskreutz.

Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski also could have gone after standing on Jerome Boateng's ankle following a tangle between the two.

Bayern, though, remained dominant and Weidenfeller made fine saves from David Alaba and Bastian Schweisnteiger before, with two minutes remaining, Robben ran onto Ribery's pass, skipped by Hummels and slid an awkward finish past Weidenfeller.

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE