Bayern Munich’s Remarkable Road to the top of Europe in 2001

After the heartbreak in Barcelona in 1999 against Manchester United, Ottmar Hitzfeld’s Bayern wanted to redeem themselves and finally match their great performances in Europe with the trophy they deserved.  Determined to reach the final and make it count Bayern’s run that year was nothing short of remarkable.

After topping a group featuring Paris St. Germain, Rosenborg and Helsingborg Bayern were drawn in an extremely difficult second stage group with the Arsenal side that would become the Invincibles in England soon after, a dangerous Lyon and a dark horse in Spartak Moscow.   Nevertheless, Bayern topped that group too despite a 3-0 loss to Lyon on the fifth matchday that threatened to derail their campaign.

Next up was a series of matches that could not have been scripted better if handed to a Hollywood screenwriter.  Up first was a quarter final encounter with the same Manchester United side that cruelly tore away their fin just two years earlier.  In the first leg Bayern mesmerized Alex Ferguson’s team at Old Trafford with Paulo Sergio scoring the match winner four minutes from time before Bayern sealed the aggregate with two weeks later in Munich to send United packing. The first chapter in their redemption was complete.

That was followed by yet another bitter encounter with their biggest European rivals and the team that eliminated them the year before, Real Madrid. As in the quarter final, Bayern surprised everyone at the Bernabeu with a 1-0 before sending the reigning European champions crashing with a 2-1 win in the second leg.  Chapter two had been written.

In the final they met a team who too had to redeem themselves after losing in the final the previous year. To many Valencia was the team of destiny and at their peak and what ensued was a fiercely contested and dramatic final. But Bayern were invigorated by the ghosts of ’99 as well as their dramatic last minute title win in the Bundesliga just four days earlier.   Bayern went down to an early Mendieta penalty.  Minutes later they missed their own.  Luck did not seem to be on their side but captain Stefan Effenberg as if through sheer will picked the team up and rallied them on.  Bayern won another penalty and Effenberg leveled from the spot.  After 120 exhausting minutes the match went to penalties where Oliver Kahn’s legendary performance sealed a cathartic and emotional win for Bayern.  They had won many European trophies before but that one may very well have been the most gratifying of all.

Bayern’s great journey to and the dramatic finale

A condensed version of the final

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari

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