Saturday, 25 May 2013

2013 Champions League Final

A lively and entertaining encounter was expected at Wembley, and we were not to be disappointed.

I have long been an admirer of the German game, finding the mixture of physical intensity, attention to detail and technical proficiency to be a potent and captivating one.  Happily, these virtues were on display in the showpiece tonight. There is even a temptation to aver that the game there is returning to the glory days of the 1970s, in its general prowess if not necessarily in stylistic and tactical terms.

I dare say that a great many notebooks dealing with tonight's game will have been replete with references to how frustrating Arjen Robben can be.  However, for all his occasional profligacy and over-elaboration, the Dutchman delivered when it really mattered tonight, providing an admirable assist and then the late winner. His demeanour after the winning goal, and following the final whistle, indicated that he felt a sense of real vindication and fulfillment.

The early stages of the game I thought threw up a minor contrast of styles, with Dortmund's brisk style initially thwarting Bayern's plans to settle and dictate a pattern. Munich's more deliberate approach did not bear fruit early on, but it was always likely that their big-game pedigree and nous would impose themselves.   It was pleasing to witness this vigorous mode of football, proof that "pragmatic" does not have to mean ugly, predictable or negative. Evidence of the ebb and flow of proceedings was how busy the goalkeepers were. The two custodians certainly earned their keep in this game!

Although Bayern struggled for genuine penetration during spells of the first period, they did look dangerous when they managed to engineer the odd opening.  At the same time, Dortmund's work-rate and organisation were impressive, although one gained the impression that as time progressed, the Bavarians sensed a weakness or vulnerability on the left hand side of the Borussia back line.

The early minutes of the second half featured some scrappy passages of play, perhaps inevitably, lacking the fluency and relentless pace of the first forty five. It might have seemed that there was an air of inevitability about Mandzukic's opener on the hour mark, and that the initiative was passing inexorably towards Bayern, but the penalty swiftly dispelled such notions. The equaliser duly injected the game with renewed zip and urgency. Needless to say, new belief was in Dortmund hearts.

In the end, though, Bayern Munich were able to fashion that moment of inspiration, and score the winner.  Did they just possess a marginally greater will, in addition to their experience?

A satisfying and intriguing final, all in all, which held the attention throughout.

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