FOX Soccer Exclusive
Bayern wins Champions League
After all the heartbreak, after all the scars and curses that accompanied two losing Champions League finals in three years, this was Bayern's turn for euphoria. Little could separate two German heavyweights during a riveting game, until the very last minute. In the 89th minute, Arjen Robben drifted into the danger zone, dribbled towards goal, and pulled off an immaculately timed bluff to guide the ball past a wrong-footed Roman Weidenfeller.
For Robben, who had suffered the blow of seeing what might have been a match-winning penalty saved by Petr Cech as Bayern choked a year ago, he was infused by the most liberating of emotions. What a contrast. As the final whistle blew moments later, Bayern's joy was unconfined.
It had taken them a while to find their gears, and perhaps their recent failures niggled at them, somewhere in the back of their minds, as they took the familiar walk out onto the stage of Europe's grandest occasion some 90 minutes previously.
That allowed Dortmund to begin a full throttle. They hustled from kick off. Jurgen Klopp's busy bees were swift to intercept, slick to break, a team fueled by the infectious eagerness that had marked their route to Wembley.
Dortmund's fiery start gave them the platform to test Manuel Neuer. Inside the first quarter of an hour they forced two chances in quick succession. Robert Lewandowski took aim from distance with an audacious, swirling shot, and then Jakub Blaszczykowski applied the pressure with a snappy shot.
Marco Reus was the next to maraud towards Bayern's goal. Neuer was able to turn aside his bright effort, before making sure he handled another effort from Sven Bender. Given the amount of chances they created, the lack of their playmaking kingpin, the Bayern-bound Mario Gotze, did not seem to be overly troubling. It was a testament to the squad, and the motivational powers of coach Klopp, that they could play so vibrantly without him.
The traveling Yellow Wall - Borussia's most visibly ardent supporters - began a show of striking synchronized bouncing and noisy encouragement. Optimism abounded.
It was as if a raw nerve had been pricked. Bayern pulled themselves together to carve Borussia open. Franck Ribery sparked to life with a deft run and cross, inviting Mario Mandzukic to thump in a header. Weidenfeller needed a strong hand to tip the ball over. Bayern were well and truly awoken now, as Robben broke dangerously.
Back came Borussia. Lewandowski powered into a one-on-one duel with Neuer. In a half dominated by expert goalkeeping, Neuer spread himself to provide another exhibition of top class resistance.
The pendulum lurched again. Robben got the better of Mats Hummels, only for Weidenfeller to deny him with another critical save.
With the two goalkeepers in the ascendancy, and Germany's top two teams well matched and able to probe, the players came out after half term with the final perfectly poised. Who could be the master of invention to tilt the balance? Who might err to swing the tie?
Cometh the hour, cometh the first answer. The combination of Robben's dart into the box, and Dortmund's moment of panic at the back, gave Bayern a precious lead. The Dutch winger, who has experienced his fair share of pain in events of this magnitude, skipped towards the byline and was able to manoeuver the ball across goal from the tightest of angles. The cross ricocheted off Weidenfeller and diverted into the path of Mandzukic. The Croatian forward was able to turn the ball in, to the elation of the Bayern fans behind the goal.
Dortmund have shown enough spirit in this competition to ensure they would not be bowed. They showed admirable character to respond, and when Dante bundled into Reus, the referee Nicola Rizzoli showed no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot (but enough disinclination to decline a sending off for the Brazilian defender). Ilkay Gundogan's mix of nerve and accuracy made for a flawless penalty.
An intoxicating game again hung in the balance. Bayern were centimeters away from regaining the lead as Thomas Muller danced past Weidenfeller to poke towards an unguarded net. As Bayern's fans prepared to celebrate again, Neven Subotic made a superhuman effort to retreat in time to make a miraculous goalline clearance.
Bayern's pressing put increasing pressure on Borussia. Weidenfeller had to show his class again to beat away David Alaba's ferocious drive, and then, with the game approaching extra time, repel a thunderous shot from Sebastian Schweinsteiger.
There was nothing Weidenfeller could to when Robben arrived on the scene with a minute to go to make Bayern history and break Borussia's dreams.
It made for a momentous farewell to Bayern's coach Jupp Heynkes, who departs to make way for Pep Guardiola. The most sought after coach in European football joins a club in the rudest of health.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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