Bayern The Fifth: Is the Champions League win by Bayern Munich the start of a dynasty?
Beyond the emotional grief of last season came the rewarding relief of this. Finally, a year after finishing runners-up in all competitions, Bayern finished ahead of the runners up in 2013.
But, it was not the procession that was expected. Bayern Munich, much like in last season’s Champions League Final, looked nervy for most parts of the game. Everything they tried seemed to turn into frustration. A few minutes into the first half, Thomas Mueller headed a corner high and let out a loud cry as he looked to the heavens. That there showed the frustrations that seemed to be encapsulating the rest of his teammates.
And as if that was not bad enough, there was Arjen Robben. The scapegoat and mockery of many as the man whom lost the Final for Bayern in 2013, he seemed to continue a personal curse with Final games. Twice in the first half, he was denied from point-blank range by Roman Weindenfeller. It reminded all of the two occasions in the past three years in which he had again been denied from point-blank range.
At the 2010 World Cup, he was put through on goal in a one on one situation with Iker Casillas. Twice. Last year, he took two penalties that would really have decided the fate of Bayern’s season. Twice. Yet, in all those occasions, he had failed to score.
On this night however, he continued the resolve that had in the first place ensured that he was a subject in all those potentially match defining moments. This Final, it may very well be told in years to come, was decided by two of his touches. The first laid it off for Mario Mandzukic to open the scoring, and the second proved to be the winner with only two minutes to go.
It meant that for the man who probably should have decided finals in other years and in other competitions, his touches effectively decided this one.
Yet even so, beyond Robben’s personal glory was a game that was bigger than him. The first all-German final had proved a precariously placed one. It was so balanced with such a high pace and constant attacking action. This is exemplified by the number of saves – and brilliant saves mind you – that both goalkeepers had to produce in order to keep their respective teams in the game.
That way, it proved to be a different Final from the previous ones. Much more exciting than the all-Italian affair of 2003. Not as one-sided as the all-Spanish edition in 2000 where Real Madrid completely dominated Valencia. More free-flowing than the spectacle of an all-English final in Moscow in 2008. This one had grit, determination, balance, attacking threat and immense quality all round.
This approach though did not mask the seemingly hurried nature of both sides’ midfields. In the end, Bayern’s was too hurried in trying to get the ball forward – Dortmund’s was too hurried to pick out that all important pass.
It thus showed the impact of the loss through injury of some key men in those midfields. Bayern missed the calm and composure of Toni Kroos while Dortmund missed the quality of Mario Goetze. Kroos would have relaxed the game for Bayern, while Goetze would most certainly have found the pass to unlock Bayern’s defence.
In their absence thus, the star man in midfield became Javi Martinez. At times resembling the image of Clodoaldo, the Brazilian midfielder who so calmly dribbled past four Italians in the build up to Brazil’s magical fourth goal in the 1970 World Cup Final, it was his calm that eventually composed Bayern. Eventually, he showed a particular drive to go forward and that meant that Dortmund’s Ilkay Gundogan could not influence the game in the manner that he should have. His physicality as well meant that Marco Reus – playing in the center where Goetze should have – was completely nullified.
In that sense thus, it points to a dominance of the game by Bayern Munich that was not entirely clear for all to see. Dortmund looked livelier and brighter, but it was Bayern who were sharper and better.
And totally deserved to climb those steps at the end of it all and lift that trophy. Their fifth European Cup means that they keep the trophy for good. Having also kept a cup in 1976 after lifting it for a third consecutive time, it means that they became the first team ever to have two original European Cups for good in their trophy cabinet.
The second major trophy this season also points to the potentially magnificent feat of a treble with the German Cup Final yet to come. That would cap off a remarkable season for Bayern, and the retiring Jupp Heynckes.
It does however also point to something more remarkable that is yet to come. Pep Guardiola will be joining the Bavarians next season, and so too will Goetze. In a sense thus, it seems as if a dynasty may just be at its infancy. What may yet come seems better – and it will be the foundation of a huge Cup win that may prove its definitive reference point. If Bayern go on to dominate European football in years to come, this – more than those stellar nights against Barcelona – will resonate strongly.
In that sense therefore, this Final may just be the beginning of something special.