October 24, 2017

FC Bayern Munich 2 – 1 Borussia Dortmund: Arjen Robben’s Famed Left Foot Wins It for Bayern

In a classic Champions League final, FC Bayern Munich defeated Borussia Dortmund (BVB) 2-1 at Wembley Stadium in London. Arjen Robben was the hero for Bayern when he scored a goal in the 89th minute, breaking a 1-1 tie. Dortmund were not able equalize in the game’s final moments, as Bayern won their 5th European title (European Cup / Champions League).

For Bayern, this Champions League was a huge relief, since the club lost last year’s final to Chelsea on penalties in dramatic fashion and lost to Inter Milan 0-2 a couple years before that in the final. It was Bayern’s (and a Bundesliga club’s) first Champions League crown since 2001. Bayern’s victory grants them a “double” (i.e. the club won the Bundesliga in historic fashion already) and a chance for the “treble” (in the DFB Pokal final next weekend against VfB Stuttgart), capping off what has already been a historic season for the Bavarian club.

For Dortmund, this loss is heart-breaking, especially considering how the club had battled back from a 0-1 deficit when midfielder Ílkay Gündogan smoothly sunk a penalty at 68′ to knot the game. The loss completes BVB’s season of second-place finishes to Bayern – both in the Bundesliga and now in this Champions League final. Dortmund’s loss is also punctuated by the club’s philosophy of hanging everything this season on making it to the Champions League final. They made it, but didn’t have the firepower to match Bayern, who always looked just a notch more menacing in this game.

Main Stats and Lineups:

Each side trotted these starting XI:

The Starting XI (Courtesy of WhoScored.com)
The Starting XI (Courtesy of WhoScored.com)

Bayern played the 4-2-3-1 formation that’s been their stalwart these part two seasons under boss Jupp Heynckes. Danté and Boeteng (over van Buyten) provided defensive coverage in back, as well as passing to swing the ball from flank to flank. Schweinsteiger and Martinez anchored a midfield that fed the attack to Robben or Ribéry.  No surprises for Bayern’s starting XI.

Meanwhile, Dortmund played the 4-2-3-1 formation that boss Jürgen Klopp has favored all year. However, with the creative attacker Mario Götze out with a hamstring injury, Klopp inserted Kevin Großkreutz as a left attacking midfielder, then shifted Marco Reus to central attacking midfielder – the slot normally occupied by Götze in this line up. Finally, Klopp swapped the positions of Gündogan and Bender. The former usually play on the right side. Sometimes, Dortmund’s play seemed to resemble a 4-3-3, as Großkreutz dropped back with Gündogan and Bender, while Lewandowski occupied the left side of a front line of three attackers.

Goals: Mario Mandzukic (Bayern) 60′ (assisted by Franck Ribéry), Ílkay Gündogan (BVB) 68′ (penalty), Arjen Robben (Bayern) 89′ (assisted by Franck Ribéry).

Cards: Danté (Bayern) 29′, yellow; Kevin Großkreutz (BVB) 73′, yellow; Franck Ríbery (Bayern) 73′, yellow.

Substitutions: Nuri Sahin for Sven Bender (BVB) 90′; Luiz Gustavo for Franck Ribéry (Bayern) 90′; Julian Scheiber for Jakub Blaszczykowski (BVB) 90′; Mario Gomez for Mario Mandzukic (Bayern) 90′.

Total Attempts: Bayern 14 (9 on target) vs. BVB 12 (8 on target).

Possession (%): Bayern 58% vs. BVB 42%.

Corners: Bayern 8 vs. BVB 6.

First Half

The match started at a somewhat slow pace. Rather than press the ball high up the pitch, Dortmund seemed content to hang back closer to midfield. Bayern, as expected, enjoyed the majority of possession from the start. However, their passing play early was sedate. In the first 22 minutes, Dortmund took the game’s first five shots on goal, none of which were particularly dangerous – although Neuer was sharp with a couple saves – leaving viewers to speculate whether having Götze in the line up would have increased the quality of BVB’s chances on goal.

Momentum seemed to shift in Bayern’s favor at about 25′. BVB keeper Roman Weidenfeller was forced to make a spectacular fingertip save on a Mandzukic header (from a Ribéry cross) at close range.  Only a minute later, Martinez hit the woodwork off a Schweinsteiger corner. However, Danté earned a yellow at 28′ for a foul on Reus (an event that would reoccur later in the match). Meanwhile, Robben received a beautifully-timed pass from Danté and found himself alone with Weidenfeller, who got his body directly between Robben and the goal to save the Dutchman’s shot at 30′. This attacking sequence, however, illustrated Bayern’s ability both to launch longballs from the midfield and expose the space left along the flanks:

Arjen Robben finds alone with Weidenfeller at 30', although Robben could have done better with his shot, this sequence illustrated Bayern's ability to exploit through the air and flanks.
Arjen Robben finds himself alone with Weidenfeller at 30′, although Robben could have done better with his shot, this sequence illustrated Bayern’s ability to exploit BVB through the air and flanks. (Courtesy of UEFA.com)

Bayern finished the half with a couple more chances: Müller with a close range effort at 37′ and Robben with another missed golden opportunity at 43′, as Danté fed him a deadly long ball from central midfield.

At halftime, Bayern enjoyed 60% of possession. However, Dortmund enjoyed slightly more chances on goal (8 to 6). However, thanks for the defensive work of Boateng and Martinez (with 15 and 13 successful challenges each), especially, these chances lacked quality. Finally, Schweinsteiger (52) and Alaba (51) led Bayern in touches, while Piszczek (31) and Gündogan (29) led Dortmund.

Second Half

The second half opened similarly to the first half, as Dortmund gained back some possession of the ball and looked liked the more lively side, as they seemed to execute some of their customary “gegenpressing” as Bayern cycled the ball around its last third of the pitch. However, BVB couldn’t create any real danger offensively.

Eventually, Bayern picked up the pace of its play and soon attacking Dortmund again. Mandzukic’s header at 59′ forced another Weidenfeller save. Yet only a minute later, Bayern opened the scoring when Mandzukic scored on a left footed shot across the goal at close range. He was assisted by Robben, who was fed by Ribéry. Mandzukic began the socring sequence with a pass to Robben in midfield:

Mandzukic's goal at 60'. Note how the Croatian attacker starts the sequence from midfield.
Mandzukic’s goal at 60′. Note how the Croatian attacker starts the sequence from midfield. (Courtesy of UEFA.com)

Mats Hummels (ball watching?) and Marcel Schmelzer were the BVB defenders victimized on the play. The goal seemed to relieve Bayern – and the club’s supporters. The Bavarians looked energized in their running, while Dortmund tried to settle the game down.

Indeed, BVB only needed eight minutes to equalize. The scoring sequence began when Danté kicked Reus in the stomach – in the penalty box.  The Brazilian defender, who has been sensational for Bayern all season, was lucky not to receive his second yellow or a straight red card (although so was Lewandowski for Dortmund at another point in the match for a bad challenge). The official gave BVB a penalty, which Gündogan took and buried with a strong shot to the right corner, as Neuer dove left.

1-1 all.

The match continued energetically. Neven Subotic made a fantastic last second save on the goal line to deny Müller a goal at 72′. At 73′, Großkreutz was fouled by Ribéry and two jostled around, both earning yellows for their fighting. However, Bayern was able to continually apply more dangerous attacking pressure as the game wound down. David Alaba whipped in a vicious shot at 76′, forcing Weidenfeller to make yet another big save. Then Müller laid off a pass at 77′ when he probably should have taken a shot on goal. Finally, Schweinsteiger’s left footed shot at 87′ was also stopped by Weidenfeller.

Then at the 89th minute, Robben broke the game open with a beautifully controlled left footed (of course!) shot from the center of the box that angled into the bottom right corner:

Arjen Robben's game winning (left footed) goal at 89'.
Arjen Robben’s game winning (left footed) goal at 89′. (Courtesy UEFA.com)

This decisive attacking sequence began in the midfield (like many of Bayern’s chances) on a long ball from Jerome Boateng to Franck Ribéry, who – posted up almost like a center in basketball – back-heeled a pass to Robben through heavy traffic. The Dutchman touched the ball, lept over Hummels’ leg, then struck home the goal with his infamous left foot.

2-1 Bayern.

Three substitutions were made at 90′. Julian Schieber took Dortmund’s last shot from outside the box, which was easily saved by Neuer. Mario Gomez was subbed  on for Mandzukic. Finally, Bayern was able to run the clock out, as Dortmund couldn’t create another chance.

Schweinsteiger (89) and Alaba (78) led Bayern in touches, while Gündogan (56) and Hummels (55) did the same for BVB. Boateng (25) and Martinez (18) led Bayern in successful challenges.  Finally, Schweinsteiger (58) and Gündogan (34) led their respective teams in passes.

Commentary

A well-deserved victory for Bayern, capping off a historic run that saw the Bavarians defeat Arsenal, Juventus, and Barcelona on its path to the final against Dortmund.  Despite Bayern’s historic dominance this season, many expected a close Champions League final against Dortmund, and these predictions were correct. The game was a classic, as even UEFA’s game events graphic illustrates the swings:

UEFA's game events graphic, showing "attacking momentum", shots on goal, and goals. (Courtesy UEFA.com)
UEFA’s game events graphic, showing “attacking momentum”, shots on goal, and goals. (Courtesy UEFA.com)

Stylistically, Dortmund has been Bayern’s foil the last two seasons; however, Heynckes seems to have finally solved the Dortmund problem for Bayern, as the signings of Danté and Martinez seem to help Bayern fight back against Dortmund’s vaunted pressing game from the back and from the defensive midfield. Finally, Robben wreaked havoc all match long with his movement and ability to receive the ball and create scoring chances himself, or through his passing. His first half misses were forgotten as the Dutchman became the match’s hero with his goal in the 89th minutes.

Dortmund definitely seemed to miss Götze’s creativity in the box, as their attacks led to many a dead end, since their attackers made solitary runs into the box, as opposed to being fed by Götze’s passing. So Bayern always seemed just a cut more dangerous and capable of scoring in this match. And, honestly, without Weidenfeller’s goal keeping (and perhaps a couple of wasted Bayern chances), the score could have easily been more like 3-1 or even 4-1.

Regardless, Bayern are the deserved champions as Heynckes now has coached two clubs to the Champions League title. Congratulations.

Header Courtesy of Reuters

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Travis serves as an editor and regular columnist here. He writes for Howler magazine's website. Born and groomed in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Travis is a college English instructor in Pittsburgh. Coffee, books, and coaching the U8s are his passions. His writing has also appeared in Bloomberg Sports, the Good Man Project, and his former blog, Sportisourstory.tumblr.com, and elsewhere. He tweets at @tptimmons. Heja BVB!

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