Borussia Dortmund may have surrendered their Bundesliga title to Bayern Munich with several weeks of the German season to go, and Jurgen Klopp's record against the Bavarian aristocrats as a coach was nothing to write home about with only five wins from 20 meetings, but they appeared relaxed with their underdogs tag ahead of this mouth-watering Wembley showdown. And given the manner of their despatching of Real Madrid and Manchester City on the way, who could blame them?
For Bayern, by contrast, the mantle of favourites seemed to be a burden. Two defeats at the final hurdle in the last three years, especially last year's penalty defeat to Chelsea on the home soil of the Allianz Arena, had left their mark and with coach Jupp Heynckes to be replaced by Pep Guardiola this summer, the vibe around Bayern was one of a mission where failure was not an option.
In the absence of Mario Gotze, sidelined by a hamstring problem but heading to Bayern after the end of the season, Kevin Grosskreutz took up station on Dortmund's left flank with Marco Reus occupying Gotze's central position. Bayern were as strong as expected with no injury concerns, and Jerome Boateng's second successive Champions League final threw his struggles at Manchester City, yet to impress in the competition, into sharp contrast.
With four previous meetings between the two sides already this season, Dortmund looked to have got the measure of their opponents better than Bayern from the early stages. Yellow-and-black shirts swarmed around red ones from the off, and Bayern seemed content to play to Dortmund's strength, namely getting at the other team as much as possible. Boateng and Dante had to contend with direct runs up close and long balls from further back to the obvious target of Robert Lewandowski.
With that four-goal display in the first leg of the semi-final fresh in the memory, Lewandowski wasted no time in showing off his considerable attributes. Boateng was given the slip three times in the opening 10 minutes or so, and the former Man City player was just getting up off the floor some way behind the Pole when he forced Neuer to deal with a decent effort from outside the area.
Boateng was trailing in Lewandowski's wake when he brought another vital save out of Neuer to break a quiet spell for Dortmund. A superb, dipping volley was chalked off, correctly, because the striker had controlled the ball with his arm but Bayern's dominance had negated his influence before then.
Bayern's power trio
Bayern striker Mario Mandzukic was backed up by a stellar trio in the shape of Franck Ribery, Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben. But their side's slow start was typified by Ribery's annoyance at getting hit in the midriff by the ball on 18 minutes, the first time the Frenchman had come to the fore. His frustration became more evident when he flailed an arm out and into Lewandowski's face.
Lucky not to have been shown at least a yellow card, this seemed to fire Ribery up and it was quickly followed by an excellent cross to Mandzukic, whose header was superbly tipped over by Dortmund keeper Roman Weidenfeller. From here, Bayern went into a much-improved spell for the rest of the first half.
Schweinsteiger drops back
The two sides mirrored each other with their 4-2-3-1 starting formations, but Dortmund's typical high-tempo approach forced Bastian Schweinsteiger to drop back in front of his central defence very early to try to allow Bayern to dictate proceedings. The move paid off, with Bayern getting their foot on the ball to create Mandzukic's headed chance. Dante forced a close-quarters save from Weidenfeller before an opportunistic chance for Robben that was also snuffed out, all within a few minutes either side of the half-hour mark.
Not taking your chances
Before the break, both sides dominated at times with long spells of pressure, but the final product was not forthcoming. Robben in particular had two off-the-cuff chances that Weidenfeller was equal to, but it felt that someone was going to regret all the wasted opportunities in the final analysis.
Both keepers were outstanding, so not all the blame could be attached to the outfield players. Weidenfeller's rapid advances on Robben, in particular, presented an imposing target that could not be gone through, over or past.
There was more of the same from the Dortmund skipper after the break, with one save to parry away a bullet of a shot from Schweinsteiger taking the eye. But Robben's winner, a few minutes later, meant the valiant Weidenfeller would be unlucky to pick up a loser's medal.
Attacking full-backs not to the fore
The likelihood of the two sides' attacking full-backs showing off their wares with overlapping rampages down the flanks was notable by its absence in the first half. 53 minutes were on the clock when Philipp Lahm and David Alaba both featured in a concerted Bayern attack.
Robben move to the middle brings payback
If his missed chances in the first half preyed on Robben's mind, he left it all in the dressing room for the second half and played a vital role in Bayern's opening goal. For the first few minutes after the break, the Dutch master made several potent breaks through the middle, with the decision having been taken to swap him with Muller, who shifted out to the right flank.
When the crucial chance came, it was Robben who gave and received through the middle before swivelling to get the ball back from the by-line, presenting Mandzukic with the opportunity from close range.
The swap with Muller came so close to paying off again after the equaliser, but Neven Subotic's outstanding goal-line clearance denied Robben - and had Klopp off his feet, celebrating almost like Dortmund had scored again.
But you can't keep a good man down for long, and the former Chelsea man's central role paid off perfectly when the time came. The 29-year-old will hit the ball better thousands of times in his career, but his scuffed effort had enough on it to put the nightmare of his missed spot kick against his former club a year ago behind him.
Just when it looked simple...
Seasoned watchers of German football would never have expected Bayern to be pegged back after going ahead, but Dante's clumsiness threw Dortmund a lifeline.
He and Boateng had looked vulnerable throughout the match, and if Dortmund were to pressurise Bayern into a mistake, it felt one of these two would be the weak spot. Enormous credit goes to Ilkay Gundogan for his nerves of steel when his big moment arrived.
Dortmund started like a train, but they eventually ran out of steam. They could not convert their early pressure into goals, and they will regret that the trouble they gave Bayern's central defence never came to fruition.
Bayern seemed to have more ideas once they hit their stride, and Dortmund's goal came about from a defensive mistake. Klopp's admirable side played their part, but it seemed fitting that the tactical change involving Arjen Robben allowed him to make amends for his miserable night in Munich 12 months ago.
|Borussia Dortmund||Team Statistics||FC Bayern Munich|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|7||Shots on Target||10|
|2||Shots off Target||4|
|35.3||1st Half Poss.||64.7|
|43.2||2nd Half Poss.||56.8|