Early Doors

‘Super Bayern’ worthy of the title on night of Robben’s redemption

Early Doors

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As Bayern Munich’s jubilant, triumphant players bounced their way up the Wembley steps and wound around the tight corner that took them up to the royal box where they would receive the club’s fifth European Cup, they chanted, almost in unison, the song that had echoed down from the stands following their 2-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund: “Super Bayern, Super Bayern, hey, hey!”

It was fitting. Bayern are a superlative team, and with only Stuttgart standing in their way in their domestic cup final on June 1, they may yet win a first German treble to cement what has arguably been the most dominant season European football has ever seen. Manchester United, Internazionale and Barcelona have achieved the feat in the Champions League era, but not quite in this manner.

While setting a Bundesliga record of 91 points to win the title by a clear 25, with a positive goal difference of 80, Bayern put four past Juventus in the quarter-final and smashed seven past Barcelona in the semi-final. Then, on an enthralling night at Wembley,they enjoyed the vindication that only truly great teams achieve. Defeated in finals by Inter in 2010 and, most traumatically, by Chelsea on home turf last year, this generation of Bayern players finally has a Champions League title.

Coach Jupp Heynckes – leaving the club to make way for Pep Guardiola, 15 years after he was ushered out of the door by Real Madrid having won the 1998 Champions League – was quick to recognise the significance of what his side achieved in a pulsating contest at Wembley, and across the course of the campaign as a whole.

"What we have achieved so far this season has been outstanding," Heynckes said. "I think in the whole history of the Bundesliga there has been no team that has played such a consistent season at a high level - and winning the championship, breaking almost all the records. Today we saw that my team was determined to win that match because it was absolutely clear … look at the generation: Schweinsteiger, Lahm, the time had come to win a competition like this. Arjen Robben too. They have a lot of caps, have won national titles, but in the international framework it has been the first one today."

For Robben, the need for this kind of redemption was particularly pressing. Long derided as a character who wilts on the biggest occasions, this was his riposte. His error-strewn first half, which witnessed two glaring misses, hinted at some familiar frailties from a man who was guilty of a huge miss in the 2010 World Cup final and failing to convert an extra-time penalty against Chelsea in the final last season. But Robben decided the game when collecting a backheel from Franck Ribery, darting away from Mats Hummels and rolling a cute shot past Roman Weidenfeller with only a minute remaining.

A flavour of personal triumph was made even more special by the fact that Sir Alex Ferguson was ushered in to the press conference room to award Robben with a deserved man of the match award. "It's first job since my retirement and it's a pleasure," said the now-former Manchester United manager. But it was the player who once met Ferguson before later signing for Chelsea who was unable to prevent a beaming smile from wrapping itself across his face when asked what went through his head as he scored the winner with a minute remaining and then cradled the trophy on the pitch.

"It was a sense of 'finally'," he said. "I think a lot of things go through your mind in a situation like that. I don't want to say my whole career, but yes. For a footballer this is the peak, the greatest you can achieve, and the whistle from the referee and you know you are the winner of the Champions League ... for a lot of us it was the thing we really needed, that we lacked in our lives.

"After last year and 2010 ... I also had the World Cup, and that’s three finals. You don’t want the tag of a loser so at last we did it and we can forget about the other things."

Not for Robben, Lahm and Schweinsteiger the tag given to Michael Ballack by some in Germany: 'der ewige Zweite' ('the eternal second'). The Dutchman is widely expected to be one of the first out of the door when Guardiola arrives - an individual sacrificed for the collective as Ronaldinho and Deco were at Barcelona in 2008 - but perhaps his committed displays towards the end of the season will give pause for thought. Heynckes certainly gave him a glowing reference to place in the new boss's in-tray.

"In the last few weeks, I have been very aware of Arjen," said Heynckes. "I have to be quite frank: I am particularly pleased for Arjen because last year we were all tragic figures, not just Arjen, but today he was so crucial. Today for me he played a very good game. Yesterday I was talking to him in the training session and said 'you are in really good form and tomorrow that is going to be one of the key factors'."

It was. That and a rather unimpressive defensive performance from Dortmund, who afforded Robben, Ribery and Thomas Mueller too much time and space in the final third. Mario Mandzukic, scorer of the opening goal when he tapped home from Robben's cross, also managed to plant a header against the bar in the first half, via a flick off the gloves of Weidenfeller.

Dortmund could not capitalise on their dominance in the first 25 minutes when their high-tempo pressing game unsettled Bayern to a large degree. Still, there was much to admire about the performance of one of Europe's most impressive teams. Ilkay Gundogan was tremendous in a deep role in midfield - winning possession and using the ball with far more class than Bastian Schweinsteiger, whom he must displace in the Germany team, as well as scoring the equaliser from the penalty spot - while Marco Reus gave another tantalising demonstration of what he is capable of with a performance full of imagination and skill.

For Juergen Klopp - whose press conference was briefly disrupted by gloating Bayern fans banging on the windows - this was nevertheless a traumatic experience. How could it be otherwise when his lavishly-talented young team had left a patch of Wembley's turf sodden with their tears?

Klopp initially struggled to string a sentence together, before saying: "We will come back – maybe not to Wembley but we try to come back to another final, that's what I told them [the players]. I need a moment to feel proud again but I am sure it is slumbering within me. I am proud of my team but at the moment it is the disappointment that prevails. But I think the team played a great game, they gave all they had. In two years there is Berlin I heard - maybe this is a good time to come back in the Champions League final."

This was the first such defeat for a golden generation of Dortmund players. But unlike Bayern, and despite Klopp's hopes, the squad in its current guise may not get a second and third chance. Asked what he would be doing for the summer, the coach pointedly replied: "Have a holiday, buy some players - because we need some players, because other clubs want our players."

Heynckes was rather more brutal when allowing an uncharacteristically unguarded comment to spill forth from his lips. To some surprise he said, rather cheekily: "We know Mario Gotze will be joining us and I don't think Lewandowski will be hanging about too much either."

Regarding other imminent changes at Bayern he was more circumspect, refusing to utter the name of Guardiola, who replaces him this summer. Why should he on a night when the 68-year-old became only the fourth man to win the Champions League with two different clubs following Ernst Happel, Ottmar Hitzfeld and Jose Mourinho?

This was Heynckes's night, as it was Robben's night, and as it was Bayern's night. Super Bayern. After finally claiming a Champions League title at the third attempt, this team has earned the title.

Tom Adams at Wembley Stadium - @tomEurosport

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