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Bayern Munich adds coveted trophy to impressive collection

Its 2-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund in an all-German Champions League final in London brings more hardware to the storied soccer club.

May 25, 2013|By Kevin Baxter
  • Bayern Munich's Mario Mandzukic, left, and Arjen Robben, who each scored a goal, celebrate after defeating Borussia Dortmund, 2-1, in the Champions League final on Saturday at Wembley Stadium.
Bayern Munich's Mario Mandzukic, left, and Arjen Robben, who each… (Alex Livesey / Getty Images )

When Bayern Munich opened its long-anticipated club museum at Allianz Arena in May 2012, it was meant to celebrate the club's present as well as its storied past. Which is why visitors, after passing a succession of trophies, medals and other hardware won during the club's 113-year history, came to a display case that was vacant, save for the spotlight illuminating its emptiness.

The spot had been reserved for another Champions League cup, the most coveted prize in club soccer. And while it takes equal measures arrogance and confidence to believe winning such an award was inevitable, Bayern Munich proved Saturday that such conviction was well-placed, beating Bundesliga rival Borussia Dortmund, 2-1, in a memorable Champions League final at London's Wembley Stadium.

Arjen Robben scored the winning goal with a minute left in regulation, ending four years of frustration for Bayern Munich, which had played in two of the previous three Champions League finals without winning.

"I can't put it into words," Robben, who also assisted on Mario Mandzukic's goal in the 60th minute, said. "I have so many emotions. My whole career went through my mind when I scored. It is such a special feeling."

Ilkay Gundogan pulled Borussia Dortmund even with a penalty-kick goal in the 68th minute, setting the stage for Robben's heroics, and redemption, in the final seconds before stoppage time.

In last year's Champions League final, Robben missed on a weak shot from the penalty spot in overtime and England's Chelsea went on to beat Bayern Munich at Allianz Arena. On Saturday, he failed to convert two promising chances in the first half.

But with time winding down, he latched on to Franck Ribery's awkward back-heeled flick in the area, avoided two defenders, then softly slipped the ball around goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller, giving Bayern Munich its first UEFA title and its first Champions League title since 2001.

After the game, Robben collected a souvenir by taking scissors to the net at the back of the goal.

"They get the Cup and we don't," Borussia Dortmund defender Mat Hummels said. "It's the hardest game you can lose."

Back home, the first all-German final in Champions League history was viewed a couple of ways. For some it was proof that Germany has replaced Spain as the world's top soccer nation, an argument that gained considerable momentum when Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund beat Spanish powers Barcelona and Real Madrid handily in the tournament semifinals.

That theory will be tested again in next summer's World Cup.

For others, however, the Champions League final was, as the national daily Die Welt called it, a showdown between "the new Germany and the old Germany."

Bayern Munich is the country's most decorated soccer team with 23 national titles, 15 cups and 10 European Champion finals. And the 2012-13 season was perhaps its finest, with the club losing only once in 34 Bundesliga games and clinching the title with more than a month left to play.

Borussia Dortmund was the sentimental choice after spending much of its recent history either trying to avoid relegation or swimming in a sea of red ink. The team's high point came in 1997, when it won the Champions League title in its only appearance in the final. But eight years later, the franchise was so broke it needed a $2.6-million loan just to meet payroll.

The loan came from Bayern Munich.

Lately, however, Borussia Dortmund has enjoyed a renaissance under boyish, joke-cracking Coach Juergen Klopp. After its near bankruptcy, the club largely ignored high-priced transfers and began rebuilding around young players who Klopp, a newcomer to the Bundesliga, coached to two league titles and a second-place finish in five seasons. Perhaps more important, however, is the fact that the team has also become a financial success, banking a record after-tax profit of more than $44 million last year, more than four times what Bayern Munich took in, while becoming a model for other struggling teams around Europe to emulate.

Bayern Munich has taken the challenge to its supremacy personally. Weeks ago, it lured 20-year-old Borussia Dortmund wunderkind Mario Goetze to Munich for next season; Goetze then sat out the Champions League final because of a curious thigh injury. And leading scorer Robert Lewandowski is apparently poised to follow Goetze to Bavaria, beginning what could be an exodus from Dortmund after what has been a dream season.

As a result, the rebuilding at Dortmund began before the Champions League final started with published reports linking Klopp's team to Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko and Danish star Christian Eriksen. But Saturday was reserved for celebrating a special accomplishment, even if they did come up just short.

"People have climbed Mt. Everest and had to turn around 10 meters from the top. But at least they've tried. And we've tried too," Klopp said.

"Congratulations to Bayern. You have to respect the result. We deserved to be in the final, we showed this tonight. That is not the most important thing but it is important."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

twitter.com/ @kbaxter11

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