Number 13: “Bayern Munich win all-German Champions League final.”
Match: Borussia Dortmund 1 -2 Bayern Munich | Date: 25th May 2013 | Competition: Champions League Final
For me, this game was the peak of German football in the 21st century.
At Wembley Stadium, arguably the two best German sides I’ve ever seen collided to win the most illustrious competition in club-football.
Before a football was even kicked, the 58th Champions League final was always going to be a historic encounter. German rivals Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich collided in all-German Champions League final for the first time in history.
Heading into the game, Bayern Munich were the favourites to lift the trophy as opposed to their German counterparts. Earlier in the year, Bayern cruised their way to the Bundesliga title and eventually concluded the league season with only one defeat. Meanwhile, the league champions found themselves in the final of the DFB-Pokal as well as the Champions League.
Regarding the teams itself, the only major absentee came from Dortmund after Mario Gotze suffered a hamstring injury and failed to get match-fit in time. The German midfielder played a crucial role for Dortmund across the season, contributing to 36 goals (via Transfermarkt) in 44 games. Had the then 20-year-old featured in the final, it would have been his final game for the club after he agreed to join Dortmund’s opponents, Bayern Munich, in the summer.
In his place, Jurgen Klopp shifted Marco Reus into Gotze’s position in the middle and called on Kevin Grosskreutz to play out wide.
Despite the issues facing them, Dortmund surprisingly started the final on the front foot. For the first twenty-five minutes or so, the underdogs completely took control of the game. They pressed and won possession well, created some good counter-attacks, and even came close to scoring on a few occasions. The likes of Jakub Blaszczykowski, Robert Lewandowski, and Sven Bender all had good chances to score.
However, despite Dortmund’s bright start, Bayern did well defensively against their rivals. Their back five, in particular, did well to nullify some of Dortmund’s attacks and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was in exceptional form on the night. His early stop against Lewandowski’s long-range strike was a particular highlight from the half.
It’s games like this one that showcased the then 27-year-old as arguably the best goalkeeper of the century.
But, with Bayern slowly growing into the game, it was Roman Weidenfeller’s turn to pull off some outstanding saves of his own to keep the game at 0-0. Just after the 25th minute, the German goalkeeper did well to save Mario Mandzukic’s headed effort with his fingertips. Minutes later, with Dortmund pressing too high in their own half, a ball from Thomas Muller cut through their defence to the feet of Arjen Robben. In the 1v1 situation, Weidenfeller was quick to rush off his line and did well to save Robben’s shot with his body.
For the remainder of the half, the two sides continued to play for the all-important first goal. Despite both sides having some good chances at goal, the exceptional performances from the two goalkeepers kept the sides level heading into the second half.
At the start of the second half, the overall intensity in the game slowed down a bit. After an excellent and fast-paced first half, both sides failed to keep up their performance levels offensively and their impact at goal dropped.
But, this all came to a close in the 60th minute when Mandzukic scored the first goal of the game for Bayern Munich. While Dortmund pressed well for most of the game, they were caught out here as Franck Ribery’s pass to Robben beat three Dortmund players. With Weidenfeller rushing off his line, the Dutch winger did exceptionally well to keep hold of the ball and play the ball across the line to Mandzukic to tap the ball home. While Marcel Schmelzer could have done better to clear the ball, Bayern deserved their lead.
Minutes later, Dortmund won a penalty. Schmelzer flicked a ball through to Reus but he was fouled by Dante as he tried to win the ball and the referee pointed to the spot. Despite being on a yellow card, the referee did not send Dante off the field which certainly benefitted Bayern, in particular.
Although Lewandowski is the primary penalty taker, it was Ilkay Gundogan who scored from the spot to level the game for Dortmund.
After a few minutes, Bayern reacted and nearly scored their second goal of the game. With the German champions on the break, Weidenfeller mistakenly ran off of his line towards Muller as the ball was played to him. Schmelzer failed to win the ball and Muller flicked the ball past the Dortmund goalkeeper and played it across the line to Robben to score.
However, Neven Subotic had other ideas. The Serbian defender sprinted towards goal and slid in just in time to deflect the ball away from Robben.
As the clock ticked towards the final whistle, both sides continued to push for that final and crucial goal that would engrave their names in history. The closest chance at goal came from full-back David Alaba, his left-footed strike was only just saved by Weidenfeller.
Finally, in the 89th minute, it was Arjen Robben who realised a dream of a lifetime. With the ball at Ribery’s feet, he attempted to backheel the ball through Dortmund’s backline into space. Instead, his attempt ricocheted off Piszczek to the feet of Robben on his driving run and he eventually slotted the ball past Weidenfeller to win the game for Bayern Munich.
In the end, neither side deserved to lose that match. Germany’s two best football clubs delivered one of the very best football games of this decade and it was the perfect way to conclude a fantastic year in German football.
My Overall Thoughts:
This game of football delivered on every single level. From the build-up to the quality between the two sides to the ending, everything about this game was simply sensational.
This Champions League final was an incredible game of football and it lived up to my expectations. Coming into the game, both sides were hyped up significantly following their performances in the semi-finals. On one side, Dortmund had an exciting encounter with Malaga and did well versus Real Madrid on their way to the final. Meanwhile, Bayern did well against Arsenal and Juventus and dominated Barcelona during their journey to the final.
Considering all of the hype, the two German clubs produced an exceptional match that was worthy of being in a Champions League final. From the forwards to the goalkeepers, every single player on the night tried to play at their best and the overall quality of the match significantly improved because of it.
Watching the game back, I find it interesting to see how video assistant referee (VAR) technology has completely revolutionised the modern game today. During this final, there were a few incidents that could have changed the game completely had VAR been used in the past and corrected these errors.
For example, I think Dortmund should have been awarded a penalty in the first half after Lukasz Piszczek was fouled in the box. Also, Dante and Lewandowski should have received harsher punishments in the second-half following their fouls on Reus and Jerome Boateng, respectively.
Also, again, this game just boils down to another last-minute goal. To the people that are reading through this series, you will realise there’s a theme of me selecting games where last-minute goals are scored. I’ve mentioned it a few times before in this series and I’ll probably mention it a few times again in future but I simply love these type of goals. They always build up the overall spectacle of the game taking place and it personally makes me remember the match taking place.
It happened with Nacer Chadli’s goal versus Japan, it happened with David Gray’s goal versus Rangers, and it also happened with Arjen Robben’s goal against Borussia Dortmund.
In the end, Bayern Munich deserved the victory but I feel bad for Dortmund too. If one of those previously mentioned incidents played out differently, it would have changed the game completely and Dortmund could have won the Champions League themselves.
As part of this series, I also wanted to learn about different thoughts and feelings that other fans had to this game. While I’ve previously discussed my love for this fixture and why it was included in my “Matches of the Decade” series, I also think it’s beneficial to learn and hear the stories from people that have a deeper connection to the game in question.
With that being said, I was fortunate enough to talk to one Bayern Munich fan and two Borussia Dortmund fans about their experiences with this game and this is what they had to say:
Lars Pollmann – Freelance football writer and Borussia Dortmund fan.
“I don’t remember exactly how I felt going into the game. I didn’t expect them [Dortmund] to beat Bayern, but that was probably just me being a pessimist. Back then, I was just a fan and didn’t comment on the team on any professional level. I think I was a bit of a mess, watching it at home from my armchair. I made a point of not getting into the hype leading up to the game, so I didn’t watch any pre-game analyses or read much of the stuff written by so many great writers in preparation.”
“From the first whistle, I distinctly remember my legs trembling nervously, which used to happen to me all the time when Dortmund had a big game back then, especially against Bayern. Not being directly from the Ruhr area, the games against Bayern were always the most important to me, even though Schalke are the real rivals. My nerves calmed down a bit when I saw Dortmund get into the rhythm of the game quite well. I think they were the better side throughout the first 30 minutes, they almost blitzed Bayern.”
“This was perhaps the best game Manuel Neuer has had in a Bayern shirt, they really worked his gloves. Unfortunately, the things I will remember most about this game were non-football incidents. Franck Ribery not getting sent off for elbowing someone in the face and later on Dante not getting sent off for two rough fouls, one of which led to the penalty scored by Gündogan. I’ve spent many an evening discussing these situations with a good friend of mine who happens to be a Bayern fan. Immediately after the game, I texted him, basically saying: ‘congrats, better team won but we’ll be talking about these incidents for years’ and so it came to be.”
“I don’t have many recollections about the game, I haven’t watched it since. I hardly remember how the match went in the 2nd half when the goals started coming, outside of an insane goal-line-clearance by Neven Subotic. If Dortmund had won the final, this scene would be the one we’d still be talking about today. As it were, the referee’s decisions kind of inform how I look back at the match, as an opportunity was unfairly taken away from Dortmund.”
“I think that moment Robben scored I didn’t feel that sharp pain every football fan has experienced at some point, just a void of emotions. Maybe sprinkled with a hint of relief of the match not going into extra time or even penalties. Looking back now, I feel as though losing this final didn’t have much of a lasting impact on me.”
“I think Klopp’s team peaked a year before in the cup final where they smashed Bayern 5-2 in Berlin. Seeing them make it into the final a year later, when Dortmund was just not as good of a team, was a surreal experience. The Malaga game and the home match vs Real in the semis are such fond memories that the final kind of takes a back seat.”
Leoul Prince – Bayern Munich fan.
“It [the game] felt like it was everything that mattered for the 90 minutes, it was all at stake. There was so much tension and prayers, it was just intense, simply put. I remember we went 1-0 up and it felt like the stars were aligning like we were about to win something we actually deserved to win.”
“But, they got a penalty and from that moment on at 1-1, all I could think about was Chelsea. For me, it literally felt like it was humanly impossible to take in another loss of that magnitude back to back. That’s when I was most nervous. It didn’t matter who the stronger team was or who was on the attack, they could very well beat us with a fluke. All they needed was one goal, that was such an annoying thought.”
“Robben redeemed himself. Now, the Allianz Arena always cheers his name, even though he just retired. When the crowd wants to push the team on its “Arjen Robben” chants because he symbolized that will to turn the game on its head. Against all odds. against all of the abuse he received in 2012, against the improbability of winning the treble, he made us realize it by winning the most crucial game of the season.”
“Today, it [the game] has been a useful tool to give Bayern a new history, it helps when you talk about the club. Bayern is seen as more established than it would have been seen had the team not won it in 2013. I look back on the game too much, to be honest. It’s everything I could have asked for as a fan, winning the treble and beating Dortmund in the final. I look back at it with immense pride and nostalgia.”
Billy – Borussia Dortmund fan.
“I remember being super nervous before the match, I mean stupidly nervous. Not because it was a Champions League final, but because it was against the team I despise the most.”
“I watched the game with my dad and a few of his German friends at my house. I remember the first 20 minutes of the match really well because we were by far the better team. We were creating chances, hitting them on the break quickly but unfortunately, we couldn’t score. We should’ve had a clear penalty too, I was furious that the ref didn’t give it [to Dortmund].”
“Bayern started to create chances after, mostly from set-pieces. But, I thought Weidenfeller was incredible. He was coming off his line, showed no fear, and pulled off some great saves and blocks, he was amazing. Robben was a constant threat all match, he assisted the first goal. I was disappointed with the way we defended for that goal but I was confident we’d come back into the game, which we did. Gundogan put away the penalty but Dante really should’ve got a second yellow for that foul in the box, it was a dangerous challenge. That would’ve changed the outcome of the game completely.”
“But, unfortunately, Robben would then go on and score the winner. I was heartbroken, it was and still is the worst moment in football for me. It was so late in the game and we were so close to extra time. The game still haunts me to this day.”