2013 Champions League Final | Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich: A fairytale end for Bayern after 2012 heartbreak

Bayern Munich had succumbed to the most painful of European club football defeats in the 2012 final. Losing a dramatic penalty shootout against a wildcard Chelsea team in their very own Allianz Arena. History doesn’t often give us examples of this sort of defeat and under these circumstances, but it provides even fewer accounts of resurrection immediately following in its wake.

It’s here that the Bavarian giants deserve the utmost credit for what they would fight to achieve in the 2012/13 season.  A testament to the inexorable obsession with success that often summarizes the existence of the club. As Jupp Heynckes and his star-studded squad began the season, it was clear that they were hell-bent on redemption to whatever end necessary.

That attitude is reflected in the 25-point gap between eventual Bundesliga champions, Bayern, and runners up – Borussia Dortmund. In route to reaching the 2013 final at Wembley Stadium, London’s 2nd time hosting Uefa’s showpiece event in 3 years, the Germans would comfortably dominate the group stage.

In the quarter-finals, Heynckes’ men would overwhelm Gianluigi Buffon and a Juventus squad that had entered into one of its most domestically successful periods in club history. Bayern progressed to a semi-final date with a club that was likewise escorted out of the previous rendition of the tournament by Chelsea – FC Barcelona.

The Catalan’s had narrowly escaped PSG, but there was to be nowhere to hide from the historic defeat they were about to incur at the hands of Bavaria. Bayern’s intentions were made clear from the opening whistle. Attack Barcelona’s backline with relentless aggression, bully them from set pieces, and give nothing away at the back.

They achieved that in Munich and replicated it at the Nou Camp. Flying past Lionel Messi and the remnants of Pep Guardiola’s reign in route to an outrageous, but deserved 7-0 aggregate scoreline. What it would set up in the final, however, was a mouthwatering all-German battle against  Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund.

‘Die Schwarzgelben’ had made it to Wembley on the back of a more closely contested, yet no less dramatic, semi-final victory over European football’s most historically successful club – Real Madrid.  In what ended up being one of the famous nights in front of the famed Yellow Wall, Robert Lewandowski decisively silenced any critics who questioned claims of the Polish striker being a World Class superstar by netting 4 goals past in the first leg alone.

However, not all of the aforementioned media attention was directed toward the on-field success of the Black and Yellow’s. Just one day before that first leg against Real, news was leaked regarding the astounding transfer of Germany’s latest prodigy, Mario Götze, to Bayern Munich. Klopp was left to plea for fans to not allow the news to alter their commitment to supporting his side at the Signal Iduna Park.

“We all know why it has come out now. We don’t know why the people who have leaked this have done so at such a delicate time. We can only speculate but we are all making the same suppositions.” The German manager continued. “If there are any fans who cannot leave their disappointment behind them, I would ask them not to come and instead to give their ticket to someone else. I don’t know why they would release this now but if they want to make it so that we do not win, I can tell them that they will not succeed.”

Klopp was referring to the convenient timing of the move which came just after Bayern Munich’s president, Uli Hoeness, was about to be given just over three years in prison for tax evasion. Yet, Klopp kept his word and galvanized his squad. Dortmund demonstrated just enough bravery in defense to withstand a late comeback in the second league at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Thus, the most dramatic of conclusions was about to come to fruition as the German rivals would share the grand stage in the 2013 Champions League final. The occasion was overflowing with fiery subplots. The two sides had traded blows in previous years in domestic competition. Klopp’s ‘heavy metal football’ made a lasting impression on the tie.

Reclaiming the Bundesliga crown was the Bavarian empire’s response to Dortmund’s success, but from their perspective, the job couldn’t be complete without a victory in London. The prospect of which would ensure glory on two fronts. It could be the fairytale end of the club’s mission to redeem itself from heartbreak in the 2012 final, as well as its exclamation point in reclaiming the role of the Bundesliga’s perennial authority figure.

As the day had finally come, Wembley was adorned with all of the pageantry that you’d expect. Mario Götze was unable to face his future teammates due to injury. The clash began with Dortmund playing the role of the aggressor and Lewandowski forced an early saved from the imposing Manuel Neuer.

Despite early questions being asked by Dortmund, it was Bayern that would begin to settle into the match and gain a semblance of control. Chances would be spurned with some fortuitous passes falling to Arjen Robben and Mario Mandzukic that forced strong saves from Roman Weidenfeller. The halftime whistle was delivered with little to genuinely separate the two sides.

The second half would see the game spring to life as Robben managed to find space to set up Mandzukic for an opening goal. Dortmund’s response was swift and unrelenting. Marco Reus was on the receiving end of a pass that led him to collide with a clumsy tackle from Dante in the penalty area. The mercurial Ilkay Gundogan took advantage by subsequently equalizing from the spot.

However, Bayern pressed on and began to pin Dortmund back as the game progressed toward its staggering conclusion. Weidenfeller and center back Neven Subotic both made crucial saves as the Bavarians had no intention of seeing the match head to extra time. For 88 grueling minutes, the Dortmund defense had withstood pressure and found ways to stay alive. Yet, Fate would favor Bavaria in a most memorable way.

Dortmund failed to clear a hopeful long ball toward the edge of its penalty box and allowed the ball to fall to an onrushing Robben. The dutchman saw his opportunity to rewrite both his narrative and the club’s in route to slotting home the game winning goal with only a few minutes left in the ninety. 

The ultimate demonstration of the Bayern Munich ethos had been fulfilled. 12 months of hunger and desperation were finally satisfied as recent final failures quickly escaped the consciousness of supporters. It couldn’t have come at a better time or taken place against a more ideal opponent.

Robben had firmly cemented his place at Bayern’s pristine table of mythical characters. He summarized the achievement beautifully in the aftermath of the celebrations.

“That is the best thing, the nicest thing about football. If you are down, going through those tough moments, you can still come back. The biggest one was losing the Champions League final in your own stadium, and for the second time, so it is sweet to come back and win it. This is the biggest one, the biggest night of my life for sure, without a doubt.”

GGFN | Reece Edwards


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