Bayern Munich have won the 2013 UEFA Champions League after a thrilling final came to a 2-1 end on an 89th-minute winning goal, courtesy of Arjen Robben.
One of the best finals in recent years took place in England between two German clubs, with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern providing a fantastic spectacle to close the season.
After a goalless first half, the match sparked into life with goals after the break from Mario Mandzukic and Ilkay Gundogan, the latter from the penalty spot. Robben scored the deciding goal with less than 60 seconds of the regulation 90 minutes left.
Neither side featured surprises in their starting XI. With Mario Gotze and Toni Kroos missing for either side due to injury, Kevin Grosskreutz and Robben took their respective places.
Both of the German Bundesliga teams went with a familiar 4-2-3-1 system, with Marco Reus moving infield for Dortmund to accommodate Grosskreutz on the flank and Thomas Muller doing the same for Bayern.
With a packed Wembley Stadium in London noisy from kickoff, the first chance of the game came within three minutes after Robert Lewandowski saw his shot blocked behind for a corner. It set the tone for what was a fairly frantic opening without any consistent execution of attacking moves or crisp midfield passing.
Dortmund were the better team in the opening stages of the game, but other than Manuel Neuer taking a high corner confidently in his penalty area, there was little work for either goalkeeper. Quick distribution from the Bayern goalkeeper looked to give them a threat on the break, but Robben and Franck Ribery couldn't make the most of the one-on-one chances they had with the Dortmund defence.
At the quarter-hour mark, Lewandowski ran down the left and fired a fierce shot from range, but Neuer tipped it over and out of bounds. On the ensuing corner, Reus crossed low for Jakub Blaszczykowski to strike a low effort, but that too met Neuer's hands on a smart save.
It was certainly the best chance of the game's opening 20 minutes, and Bayern owed their goalkeeper a debt of thanks.
Sven Bender and Reus also both tested Neuer with low efforts before the half-hour mark, with Bayern struggling to make any sort of impression on the match as an attacking force. That is until, out of nothing, Mario Mandzukic had a header tipped over the crossbar by Dortmund keeper Roman Weidenfeller. Javi Martinez headed the resulting corner over the bar.
Ribery might have been lucky to escape without a card for a flailing arm, which left Dortmund fans irate.
Robben then had a great chance to open the scoring, one-on-one with Weidenfeller, but he could only hit the goalkeeper with his shot.
It looked as though Bayern had weathered the early storm from Dortmund and would finish the half stronger, but Lewandowski almost immediately found himself free on goal—only for Neuer to deny him yet again.
Robben wasted another chance to cross or shoot less than a minute later, and Muller glanced a header wide of the far post. At this point, it was clear Dortmund were struggling to match Bayern aerially on set pieces.
The final big chance of the first half fell to Robben once more, just 10 yards from goal, but he cracked a shot high and straight at the goalkeeper, who made another terrific reaction stop, albeit with his face. Whether by luck or good positioning, Weidenfeller—along with opposite number Neuer— played a big part in the first half remaining goalless.
The second half opened just as frantically as the first 45, but neither stopper was seriously called upon this time until Mandzukic had another unmarked header off a corner just shy of the hour mark. Weidenfeller grasped it quickly, but the threat of Bayern's set pieces was still evident.
And then, on the hour mark, Wembley stadium exploded in a sea of red.
Ribery and Robben combined to get the latter in the area, where he nipped past Wiedenfeller and passed the ball along the six-yard box to Mandzukic, who had a simple task of knocking the ball past Marcel Schmelzer and into the back of the net.
Bayern were then ahead 1-0 with around half an hour to play—but it was a short-lived lead.
Just seven minutes later, Reus got into the box and knocked the ball past Dante, who almost chopped the attacker in half with a wild attempt at a tackle. It was high, late and very definitely a penalty, and the defender was lucky to escape without a second yellow card (and ensuing red).
With Lewandowski having missed a penalty against Neuer recently, Gundogan stepped up to take the spot kick and duly levelled the scores with a fine finish into the bottom-right corner for 1-1.
The match was well and truly alive now. On 72 minutes, Bayern were within an inch of retaking the lead after Muller got around the goalkeeper and fired a cross-shot along the goal line—leaving Neven Subotic to make one of the defensive clearances of the season with a last-ditch sliding tackle on the line.
Robben surely should have tapped it in, but he failed to continue his run at the far post and thus missed a great chance.
Finely poised, the game swung back to the other end of the pitch, where Lewandowski fired in an amazing 25-yard volley which found the top corner of the net—but the whistle had gone for handball.
Just moments later, Muller had a rare chance to run in on goal, but he opted to go to ground rather than try for a shot.
As the game entered its final 10 minutes, the chances noticeably dried up at both ends as neither side wanted to risk the chance of losing a second goal late on. But there was one more to come in the final minute of the game.
A rare high ball was played up to Ribery on the edge of the box. He brought it down brilliantly and laid it off to the onrushing Arjen Robben.
Having fluffed his lines on several occasions during the 89 previous minutes, the Dutchman sped through the last line of defence, faced up to Weidenfeller and finally beat the Dortmund keeper. The shot slipped past and inside the far corner of the net, much to the heartbreak of those in yellow and to the absolute joy of those in red.
A late spate of substitutes from both sides filled three minutes of injury time, but Robben's contribution would ultimately decide the contest. As the final whistle went, Bayern's players sank to their knees in triumph.
With the result, the treble of domestic league and cup and European Cup remains a very real possibility for Bayern Munich—the 2013 UEFA Champions League winners.
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