Bayern Munich just knocked off German rivals Borussia Dortmund, 2-1, in the Champions League final after Bayern winger Arjen Robben scored in the 89th minute to win the match. It was maybe the best possible end to an action-packed match that was open and free-flowing from the opening whistle. It was also the best possible end to Bayern's season, which has been fucking unreal.
They've lost three times all year in all competitions. In the Bundesliga alone, they scored 98 goals and only conceded 18. They'll win the treble if they win next week's German cup final, and they look a lock to do it. In the Champions League, they glided by Arsenal, then destroyed this year's Italian champs, Juventus, and Spanish champions Barcelona en route to the final. Bayern have topped it off today by beating Borussia Dortmund, who had yet to lose only lost once in the Champions League this year. People are already comparing this team to the 1974 Bayern team, thought of as the best Bayern team in the history of the club. But we're not here to talk about Bayern. We're here to talk about Arjen Robben.
Because from start to finish, the dramatic, talented, wasteful, enigmatic, mercurial winger had the match by the short and curlies. He was absolutely unstoppable, and he capped off an unbelievable performance with this fantastic goal minutes from the final whistle:
When the pass was lofted into Franck Ribéry from Bayern's back line, Robben was nowhere near the play. Ribéry was strong enough to hold off BVB defender Lukasz Piszczek to bring the ball down, but by the time he had, Dortmund players had already gotten behind the deep ball. Ribéry was trying to back heel a pass to attacking midfielder Thomas Müller, but Piszczek was able to break it up. But Robben had just run about thirty yards through the midfield to scoop up the loose ball, break through the Dortmund defense, and touch it around the keeper for the winning goal.
The play was equal parts genius and determination from Robben. He knew that if he were to make the run he'd likely be open for a pass, since it's almost impossible to recognize the danger and track anyone, let alone of the fastest players in the world, who takes off on a dead sprint into the box from near midfield. But it's one thing to see the play developing, as Robben did, and quite another to make that long run from so far out of the play in the 89th minute of a soccer match. Especially when he'd just spent 89 minutes terrorizing BVB.
Dortmund are known for starting out quickly with ruthless, breakneck attacking play, and dominated the early portion of the game. Robben, however, had the two best chances of the half, though when he was sprung free by a Müller through ball in the 29th minute, and when he got on the end of a deep ball from centerback Dante just before half, but sent his shot off the face of Dortmund keeper Roman Weidenfeller. The misses were almost point-blank, and vintage Robben. He's sometimes selfish and refuses to use his right foot for anything more than a kickstand, but on the whole, the guy is pretty unstoppable. He just misses a lot. Robben creates so many chances for himself and his team, though, that at some point Bayern will find a way to score. The problem with Robben is when he isn't getting into dangerous areas to miss those sitters. That, of course, wasn't a problem today.
In the 60th minute, Robben broke behind the Dortmund defense again, and this time it led to a goal. He carried the ball from midfield into BVB territory, combined with Ribéry, and found Mario Mandzukic free in front of goal to take the lead, 1-0.
What should stand out here is Robben's run once he lays it off to Ribéry. When he passes it, he backs out of the space to give the Frenchman more room to operate. But it also takes him out of the defenders' line of sight. They forget about him, and turn to confront the ball. This was a mistake. As soon as they turned their heads, Robben sprinted into the open space. One silky pass from Ribéry later and Bayern were up 1-0.
In a match in which Bayern started off slowly and didn't play all that well, even giving up a terrible penalty to even the match, they were still able to win. That, the pundits say, is the mark of a great team. Bayern are great, almost inarguably the greatest in the world right now, and after their summer dealings in the transfer market, they'll be even better next year. And even though there's a little disagreement among the ranks, my guess is that with their talent, enormous transfer budget, and all the clout that winning the Champions League brings to a club, Bayern will be a favorite to win the Champions League next year, and in years to come. Robben, however, is one player who's likely to leave the club in the offseason for pastures elsewhere. So let's take time to remember the speedy Dutch winger who started it all, who at long last got Bayern Munich their Champions League trophy after the club twice fell short in the final in the last three years.
Photo Credit: Getty