Heynckes' Robben Bruises Dortmund in Final
By Alex Fairchild
Bayern Munich's talent and Borussia Dortmund's energy were the key for each side's road to Wembley. Those two character traits also led to the rise and fall of each club in their Wembley clash.
Saturday's match was clash of cultures and it showed early. The worker bees pressed their Bavarian rivals in the opening moments. Marco Reus set the tone alongside Robert Lewandowski. As Munich looked to find a way by Dortmund's two attackers, they certainly struggled, as Dante and David Alaba were nonplussed at the back. The duo looked for Javi Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger to come back for the ball, though the midfield duo were carefully tracked by Klopp's soldiers.
BvB's forward pressure was impressive. Whenever the pair in red gained possession it was often for extraordinarily short periods, and not because they were stringing together lovely passes, but because the ball was forced off their feet. The partners were uncomfortable, stymied for that matter, thus unable to get a rhythm going in the midfield.
Dortmund showed their German rivals that they would not go down easy, as full back Marcel Schmelzer got forward early. Klopp was fearlessly going for the jugular. With Munich under siege, Alaba and Dante were forced into knocking the ball forward, where they searched for eventual goal scorer Mario Mandzukic. A lack of possession at the match's beginning signaled to Jupp Heynckes that to get his top man, Arjen Robben, onto the ball, he would have to become attached to one of the members of Bayern's ever-rotating front four, who would be able to take the ball out of the air and lay it off to the on-coming Dutchman. This occurred with moments off the clock as Robben looked to play off the loan Munich striker.
Robben haunted the middle of the pitch multiple times during the first period of play, though his efforts were overshadowed by Dortmund's pressing. As Munich were pushed further toward their own goal, Heynckes made another tactical adjustment. Looking to free his full back, Alaba, on 10 minutes, he pushed Frank Ribery towards the middle. However, this adjustment was quickly abandoned and normal order easily restored.
Play down the flanks and on the break proved key for Munich against Barcelona. Dortmund had done well to keep the ball out of reach for Ribery and Robben, which the Catalan failed to do, though the Frenchman provided Bayern's first opportunity of the match on 26 minutes, whipping in a lovely ball which was mis-headed by Mandzukic. It was one of Munich's few rushes down the flank.
As for the Dortmund attack, it was all Reus. Despite switching to the left side of the pitch on occasion, the German spent the majority of his time on the right. He looked a threat with the ball, though his forward play struggled to reach its full potential.
Lewandowski's play was much the same. While he danced by defenders at times, he was often going backwards. His cracking effort on goal was all he had to show for on the day. The Pol did not have one shot in the second half.
In addition, the underdogs found it difficult to find their targets. Through the match's opening 42 minutes, Dortmund completed a mere 58% of their passes according to an on-screen statistic.
the end of one, the passing was gorgeous at times, especially for Munich as they played some wonderful football, due to combinations between Martinez and Schweinsteiger. Wingers were also rotating at a constant rate, as both coaches looked to re-shuffle the cards to break the ice.
However, what was most interesting in the first was Dortmund's passing dynamic. Each time they came down the right their passing was more intricate. Those brilliant triangles which the world's top sides are known for were forming and producing chances for the black and yellows. The technically gifted Reus was the key to the puzzle, along with the skilled yet powerful Jakub Blaszczykowski.
Despite their first half prowess, linking 5 times through 45 minutes, the Pol ceased to find Reus after the intermission. Perhaps that is because Reus tired. He could not be everywhere at once for Dortmund, though he had to be without partner Mario Gotze in the side.
On the left, Großkreutz, being less skilled than Reus, found it difficult to link up with teammates at the intricate level needed to penetrate one of the world's best defenses, who let in just 18 goals in their 34 game domestic campaign - the next lowest total in that department were the 39 conceded by Bayer Leverkusen. As a result, long balls were hoofed down the left for the BvB winger to chase.
Meanwhile, pressure on the back four of Munich proved effective. Dante and Alaba were forced to combine 27 times in the opening 45 minutes.
However, Dortmund ran out gas. They could no longer push Munich into their own half and suddenly all hope of an upset went awash. Reus no longer crossed about the pitch and the threat of him unlocking Boateng and Dante was lost. The talisman was neutralized - literally, as he was stuck just above the center circle.
After the break, Robben was pushed into his temporary first half role - playing on Mandzukic's coattails.
When the clock struck 60 at Wembley, the Dutchman picked the ball up in the middle of the pitch and Ribery was picked out on the left. The tactic was about to succeed. Cutting in with his right, the Frenchman, quickly spotted his bald runner, who had flown down the pitch's left center. Robben received the ball with grace before taking a touch past Dortmund keeper Roman Weidenfeller and playing it at an angle to Mandzukic for the easy tap-in. The brilliant move forward was exactly what Heynckes wanted, though his team's disciple broke down moments later when Dante's pathetic challenge on Reus earned Dortmund a penalty.
Gundogan did the job from the spot and the final was level with 20 minutes remaining.
In what was a physical and fast-paced game the brutality of the proceedings took over on 73 minutes when both Ribery and Großkreutz were booked for challenges on one another.
Jerome Boateng proved the day's most battered though, as he took to the floor several times. The German back certainly struggles with discipline, as he rode the back of Lewandowski on several occasions, which saw him pick up his wounds.
He was tossed to the turf multiple times, injuring his back, ankle, and head over the course of the 90 minutes. Unlike the sorry pre-game crusaders, Boateng was a man ready for battle.
Once the physical interlude concluded, German passing took over and after a few wonderfully distributed passes from Schweinsteiger, the match persisted as Munich edged closer and closer to a winner.
Arjen Robben, who has been pained by ghosts of finals past, kept making runs down the middle that continued to pound the Dortmund defense, almost as hard as the hearts of supporters of each side worldwide. This threat was something the world rarely sees from Robben, who is known for his ability to cut in and shoot - the epitome of an inverted winger.
The Dutchman got through the middle once again on 89 minutes. Riding the shoulder of Ribery, who had taken a long ball out of the air, it took a back heel from the Frenchman to find Robben. A man who is the victim of so many memes who lost three major cup finals in a three year span experienced a cathartic finale. Touching the ball by Mats Hummels and nudging the ball by Weidenfeller must rank in the top moments of that man's life.
It was all due to Heynckes genius. He realized early that playing Robben in his usual position would not be enough, thus the long time coach put his star man in the middle, through which Robben played the lead role in both Munich goals. These men had been going for 90 minutes in what had been a box-to-box final at times, and after Robben's goal three substitutions were made. Klopp looked to equalize, though that goal would never come.
After playing the game of their lives, it was never good enough to beat the world's best club. Dortmund were exhausted and how they climbed the 100+ Wembley steps we'll never know. In the face of defeat a new footballing power was affirmed. There is no doubt now that Munich are the act to beat - the tune for an artist to knock off of Billboard's top spot. Next term, Barcelona and assumed signing Neymar will have something to say about that, though it is hard to believe that a side with such experience, yet just as much youth will be falling flat on their face anytime soon. Munich will be creative with Gotze, gritty with Ribery and Schweinsteiger, though stylish with Pep Guardiola on the bench. For any coach, whether it be Klopp or Mourinho, they are a tactician's worst nightmare.
They can possess. They can counter. They are Kings of Europe. All stats from FourFourTwo Stats Zone.