Arjen Robben gains redemption in lifting Bayern Munich to Champions League title

Martin Rogers
Yahoo Sports

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Arjen Robben celebrates his game-winning goal for Bayern Munich. (Getty Images)

With a single, dramatic, title-winning flick of his left foot,  Arjen Robben finally rid himself of all the hurtful tags.

Nearly-man. Big-game choker. Perennial runner-up.

Robben's cool head prevailed in the dying moments of a Champions League final of outstanding quality on Saturday, giving Bayern Munich the title with a 2-1 triumph over German rival Borussia Dortmund.

This time around, finally, the Dutch winger was the man of the moment, taking control of this game in a way he couldn't in any of the three huge disappointments in his career.

[Related: Arjen Robben in tears after emotional victory]

Two of them came in the 2010 and 2012 Champions League finals, when he was anonymous for Bayern against Inter Milan and then missed a crucial penalty kick against Chelsea last year. The other was on the greatest stages of all, when he failed to shine for the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup final.

Saturday night at London's Wembley Stadium, Robben's expression said it all as he wheeled away, sprinted towards the Bayern fans and screamed with relief and delight after running through the Dortmund defense and calmly clipping the ball past goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller to decide this contest.

No more big game jitters, no more disappointment. No more heroic failure – not for him nor his team.

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Arjen Robben flicks the ball past Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller in the 89th minute. (AP)

This victory cemented Bayern's new status as the greatest current team in club soccer, a theory that gained weight when it destroyed Barcelona 7-0 in a two-legged semifinal and was confirmed here.

Dortmund played its part too, though, and the match was a showcase of how German soccer is now the most dominant brand of the beautiful game and why it may be Germany, not Spain or host nation Brazil, who starts next summer's World Cup as favorite.

Both sides displayed technique and tactical nous of the highest order and yet it was highly entertaining to watch as well – this modern brand of German soccer lacks the somewhat mechanical nature of past teams from that country.

Bayern did not have it anywhere near as easy as most pre-match predictions suggested and had to weather an early storm from a superb Dortmund team, whose defeat tugged at the heartstrings.

For this was, in many ways, a battle of the haves and have-nots. Bayern hails from the hip and glamorous southern city of Munich, with a celebrity fan base to match. Dortmund is the team of the working class, its gritty and determined nature a reflection of the population of its northern residents, but it stood tall in this competition, seeing off Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid in the semifinal.

Finals between fierce rivals are sometimes dour affairs, but not this one, which provided entertainment from start to finish. The first half conjured plenty of chances, especially for Dortmund, and only remained scoreless at the interval thanks to the efforts of Weidenfeller and Bayern's Manuel Neuer between the posts.

Robben's impact was present throughout and he had a major hand in breaking the deadlock early in the second half. He surged to the byline and dragged the ball back across the face of goal, leaving Mario Mandzukic to simply tap it into the net.

Dortmund refused to quit however, and were level after 67 minutes. A foolish foul from Dante inside the area allowed Ilkay Gundogan to fire home from the penalty spot.

The equalizer rekindled bitter memories for Bayern, those of last season's devastating defeat to Chelsea after leading on its home soil in the final. This time though, there was no such collapse.

Bayern went close to taking the lead again with 20 minutes to go, denied only by an incredible clearance from Neven Subotic, who sprinted back to his own goalline to deny Thomas Mueller's goalbound effort.

How United States fans wished Dortmund defender Subotic, who spent much of his childhood in Salt Lake City and Florida, had opted to play for this country's national team instead of Serbia, the birthplace of his parents.

However, Bayern could not be denied for long. The club is known as FC Hollywood and even had American celebrities Will Smith, Bradley Cooper and Andrew Luck watching from the stands. But it has real steel about it, too.

In the end it was the flair of Robben that made the difference. His legs still fresh following 89 minutes of effort, he burst through to collect a loose ball, skipped past Dortmund defender Mats Hummels, and coolly beat Weidenfeller.

It was redemption for him and glory for the world's finest team, and the second in which one simple truth finally hit home.

The Bayern Munich era has arrived. Get used to it.

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