Saturday evening’s “German Cup final”, as UEFA President Michel Platini described it, lived up to all expectations. Appearing in their third final in the last four years, Bayern Munich became European champions for the fifth time after defeating compatriots and Bundesliga runners-up Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in German football’s big night at Wembley.
Victory capped a superb campaign for the Bavarians, who grew in strength as the tournament progressed. Saving their very best for the latter stages of the competition, Jupp Heynckes’ men crushed Barcelona in the semi-finals before Arjen Robben’s last-gasp winner saw off Dortmund.
FIFA.com looks back on Bayern’s achievement and rounds up the rest of the highlights of the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League season.
Bouncing back in the best possible style from last season’s agonising defeat in the final to Chelsea at their home ground, a supremely confident Bayern swept all before them on both the domestic and continental fronts.
Not content with winning the Bundesliga in record time, some six games from the end of the season and with a 25 point-advantage over Dortmund, the men from Munich surged to the Champions League final, easing their way through the group phase before dispatching Arsenal, Juventus and Barcelona with panache.
After weathering Dortmund’s early storm on Saturday evening, Jupp Heynckes’ impressive side then began to wrest control, thanks in small part to their tireless wingers Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, who atoned for missing a penalty in last season’s final by setting up Bayern’s opener and scoring a late winner.
Saturday’s scoreline failed to reflect the intensity of an entertaining final, in which the goal count would have been much higher but for the superb performances of goalkeepers Manuel Neuer and Roman Weidenfeller.
The departing Heynckes has set the bar very high for his successor Pep Guardiola, and will look to go out in style when he takes charge of his all-conquering Bayern side one last time in next weekend’s German Cup final against Stuttgart.
Three of this year’s semi-finalists - Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid - reached the same stage of the 2012 competition, with Borussia Dortmund taking the place of last season’s winners Chelsea, reflecting the rise of the Bundesliga and the seeming decline of Premier League, which had no representatives in the quarter-finals for the first time since 1996.
In contrast, La Liga had three teams in the last eight, though none of them could make it past the semi-finals. In all eight different countries were represented in the Round of 16, one fewer than last year.
Malaga enjoyed an outstanding run on their debut in Europe’s most prestigious club competition, mainly on the back of their outstanding home form, the Andalusian side winning five and drawing two of their seven home games. After negotiating the play-offs, Malaga won their group by four points from AC Milan and knocked out Porto in the last 16 before going suffering an agonising exit at the hands of Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals.
Quarter-finalists in 2001, Galatasaray pulled off a major feat when they knocked out Schalke 04 in the Round of 16. Held to a goalless draw at home in the first leg, the Turkish side went to Gelsenkirchen and won 3-2, a performance in which their Ivorian striker Didier Drogba – a champion last season with Chelsea – had a big hand.
Finally, and just as they did last year, Real Madrid and Barcelona came up short in the semi-finals, though in very contrasting fashions. While Real came within a single goal of a dramatic comeback against Dortmund, Barça went scoreless for the first time in 26 years in losing a European tie, crashing to a 7-0 aggregate defeat to a rampant Bayern.
* Dortmund’s 24-year-old front man Robert Lewandowski scored ten goals to finish just two behind Cristiano Ronaldo in the scoring charts. in the process the Pole became the first player ever to hit four in a European Cup/Champions League semi-final match, his quadruple against Real Madrid helping the Germans to a 4-3 aggregate victory.
* Galatasaray striker Burak Yilmaz, who has spent his entire career in Turkey, was one of the revelations of the tournament. Scoring at a rate of one goal every 96 minutes, the 27-year-old struck eight in all to finish level with last season’s leading marksman Lionel Messi.
* When it came to moving the ball around, nobody did it more times than Barcelona’s distributor-in-chief Xavi, who once again topped the passing statistics with no fewer than 1,297 passes.
* Arjen Robben’s late winner brought an end to his recent finals jinx. On the losing side in the Final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ against Spain and the Champions League final against Inter Milan a few weeks earlier, the Dutchman also missed an extra-time penalty in last year’s final defeat to Chelsea.
Did you know?
* Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes, who amassed 243 goals in 394 Bundesliga matches between 1964 and 1978, was the leading goalscorer in the 1975/76 European Cup with six goals.
* Should Bayern win next weekend’s German Cup final, they will become the first German club and the seventh European side to win the league, cup and European Cup/Champions League treble. The six other teams to have achieved the feat are Glasgow Celtic (1967), Ajax Amsterdam (1972), PSV Eindhoven (1988), Manchester United (1999), Barcelona (2009) and Inter Milan (2010).
5 - The number of European Cup/Champions League titles Bayern Munich have now won, putting them level with Liverpool. Only Real Madrid with nine and AC Milan with seven have more.
What they said
“No team in the history of the Bundesliga has been as consistent or played at such a high level. We didn’t feel sorry for ourselves after our defeat last year and the proof of that is there for all to see,” Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes.
“I told the players after the game that we’d make it back to the final. It will be held in Berlin in two years’ time and that will be a good occasion to go back,” Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp.
“This is incredible. It’s been a lot of hard work too, but hard work pays off. It’s fantastic,” Bayern Munich player Franck Ribery.
Roll of honour
Winners: Bayern Munich*
Runners-up: Borussia Dortmund
Losing semi-finalists: Real Madrid and Barcelona
*Qualified for the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2013
12: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
10: Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund)
8: Burak Yilmaz (Galatasaray), Lionel Messi (Barcelona) and Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)
Leading goalscorers in the last five seasons:
2008/09: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), 9
2009/10: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), 8
2010/11: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), 12
2011/12: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), 14
2012/13: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), 12