Champions of Europe

Victory is sweetest when you’ve known defeat.

When F.C Bayern Munich lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy on May 26th, the pain from the crushing defeat 12 months back would have been foremost in their mind. They had finally conquered their demons, and they had done it in style.

Right from the start of the Champions League in September ’12, Bayern looked like a side determined to go all the way. They had been in two finals in the last three years, and had lost on both occasions. The loss in the 2011-2012 season’s final to Chelsea was especially painful, as they had thoroughly deserved to win, with consistent performances throughout the tournament and in the final. When the final kick of the ball etched Chelsea’s name on the trophy, the players from the German club sank to the ground, distraught.

Robben scores the last goal

Come the 2012 – 2013 season, the wounds were still fresh but the players were raring to go, with Jupp Heynckes at the helm. Having wrapped up their domestic season in record time, Bayern poured all their resources and focus into the Champions League. They topped their group and were drawn against Arsenal in the first round of the knockout stages. Comfortable wins against Arsenal and Italian champions Juventus put Bayern into the semifinals and established them as one of the favorites for the title. However, there was a huge hurdle in their path to the finals, the semi final clash against Spanish giants Barcelona, who had won two Champions League titles in the past four years, and had their sights set on another one. The match was a difficult one to call, but Barcelona, with their talisman Lionel Messi, were favorites to progress to the final in London. What followed in the next fortnight will go into history books and football fans’ hearts as one of the great upsets in footballing history. The upset lie, not in the result, but in the manner in which Bayern Munich triumphed over Barcelona.

In the first leg in the Allianz arena, Munich, Bayern displayed counter attacking football at it’s finest, and won the game 4-0. The Spanish side were reeling, but they knew that they were not out of it yet. If there was any side that was capable of overcoming such a deficit, it was F.C Barcelona. When Bayern walked into Nou Camp, Barcelona, on  May 1st , everyone knew it was still game on. Barcelona would throw everything at them.

What followed was one of the most dominant displays of football by an opposing side at the Nou Camp. Barcelona were drubbed 3-0 in front of 90,000 of their own fans. On aggregate Bayern had beaten Barcelona 7-0, one of the biggest losses in the club’s history. This put Bayern in a great position, when they walked out on 25th May, in front of 90,000 screaming fans, at the Wembley Stadium in London. They were facing their domestic rivals, Borussia Dortmund, who had defied all odds, beating giants like Real Madrid, to make the final in London. Bayern, though quietly confident, knew that their opponents were no pushovers and could beat any side on their day.

The first half saw both Bayern and Dortmund get many chances, but neither side was able to score, with both goal keepers in tremendous form.  Bayern winger Arjen Robben, who had missed a penalty in the 2012 final, was again responsible for squandering chances in front of goal.

The second half kicked off in similar fashion, with both sides unable to break the deadlock. With the relentless pace at which both the sides were attacking, it was, however, only a matter of time before one of the goal keepers caved. In the 60th minute, Bayern play maker Ribery flicked the ball onto the path of Robben who took the ball past the keeper and crossed it to striker Mandzukic to score. Bayern were up 1-0. Their joy was shortlived though, as just 8 minutes later, Dortmund got a penalty, courtesy Dante’s kick on Dortmund forward Reus. Iikey Gundogan stepped up and made it 1-1.

With the score level, and only one minute left on the clock, the game looked set to go into extra time. Cue Arjen Robben. The winger got the ball amidst a crowd of Dortmund players just inside the penalty box, sidestepped one defender, and tucked the ball into the corner of the net. His celebration was befitting of a man who had just won back twelve months. It was redemption for Robben, who had gone from villain to hero in the space of a few seconds. Bayern played out the remaining few minutes and the pure delight could be seen on the faces of the players as they celebrated at the stroke of the final whistle. They ran around Wembley stadium, celebrating as champions, their bitter disappointment a year ago, but a distant memory.



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