Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Bayern reigns supreme
Robben's late goal ends Munich's run of frustration in Champions League
LONDON -- Arjen Robben scored in the 89th minute Saturday to give Bayern Munich a 2-1 win over German rival Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final, ending four years of frustration for his team in Europe's biggest tournament.
Robben ran on to Franck Ribery's backheeled flick-on in the area and calmly slotted the ball past goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller to give Bayern its first Champions League victory since 2001. The German team had lost two of the last three finals, including on penalties to Chelsea last year in its own stadium in Munich.
"This means a lot. I still have not grasped it," Robben said. "There are so many emotions."
In a game that featured a slew of chances for both teams, Mario Mandzukic put Bayern ahead in the 60th minute at Wembley Stadium before Ilkay Gundogan levelled from the penalty spot eight minutes later, after defender Dante fouled Marco Reus in the area.
Robben, who missed two great chances in the first half, then finally came through for Bayern to set off wild celebrations in the red-and-white end of Wembley. It was the perfect redemption for Robben, who missed a penalty in extra time of last year's final, causing some Bayern fans to turn against him. A year later, after the final whistle sounded in London, he received undivided adulation as he strode with his arms raised toward the section of jubilant Bayern fans.
"It was very even. They had chances, we had chances," Robben said. "Then the last minute, I was quicker to the ball. I missed two chances before that but I stayed calm."
Robben also set up the first goal for Bayern, taking a pass from Ribery and drawing Weidenfeller out toward the touchline before squaring for Mandzukic, who could hardly miss from a few yards out.
But the lead didn't last long. Dante clumsily clattered into Reus in the area, and Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli pointed to the spot. Gundogan sent Manuel Neuer the wrong way before calmly slotting his spot kick into the right side of the net.
The European Cup title caps a spectacular season for Bayern, which broke a host of Bundesliga records in running away with the German league title -- finishing an unprecedented 25 points ahead of second-place Dortmund. It can still complete a treble, as it faces Stuttgart in the German Cup final next Saturday.
Regardless of that result, coach Jupp Heynckes will leave the German powerhouse in perfect style. Heynckes, who is stepping down at the end of the season, won his second Champions League trophy after leading Real Madrid to the title in 1998. He will be replaced by Pep Guardiola next season, but the former Barcelona coach will have a hard time improving on this Bayern side -- which dismantled the Spanish giants 7-0 on aggregate in the semifinals.
For Dortmund, it's another bitter runner-up finish to its main rival, having seen Bayern end its two-year hold on the Bundesliga title.
"We are very proud to have given them a good contest," Weidenfeller said. "But we didn't manage to win. We gave our best. We'll be back next season."
Bayern entered the game as the clear favourite, although that message didn't seem to have filtered through to Juergen Klopp's Dortmund team, which seemed intent on dictating play from the start. They largely succeeded for the first 25 minutes as well, although it was Bayern that ended up with the best chances of the first half.
Mandezukic came closest when his header was tipped onto the bar by Weidenfeller in the 26th, and the goalkeeper then denied Robben four minutes later when the speedy winger raced clear on goal. Before that, Neuer had been by far the busier goalkeeper, making a point-blank save from Jakub Blaszczykowski and diving to stop an effort from Sven Bender.
-- The Associated Press
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 26, 2013 B12
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