By Kris Voakes
He finally did it. In the 2010 World Cup final, his clear one-on-one against Iker Casillas was decisive as the Netherlands let Spain back in. Last year, his penalty miss allowed Chelsea to recover to win the Champions League on spot-kicks. But in 2013 Arjen Robben gained his redemption.
His winner against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley took some time to come, and not just in the sense of his past failures on the grand stage. In the first half he fluffed two great opportunities which had his name trending on Twitter. But he got the last laugh right at the very end.
Robben’s magnificent moment came just as the all-German Champions League final, which had fizzled and flickered for much of the night, seemed set for extra-time. The Dutchman’s run made the most of an excellent Franck Ribery flick, and this time when he needed to deliver, he did exactly that. Whereas after his first-half chances his face bore the expression of someone pained by previous anguish, suddenly all the joy in the world was etched on those familiar features.
He’d already seemingly won the game once. After playing a one-two with Ribery, he beat Roman Weidenfeller to the byeline and squared for Mario Mandzukic to tap into an empty net. But it had taken Dortmund only eight minutes to equalise, with Ilkay Gundogan netting from the spot after Marco Reus had been felled by a clumsy challenge by Dante which could arguably have seen the Brazilian sent to the stands on another night.
But Robben was not to be denied, and Europe’s best team have been rewarded for a magnificent season with the biggest win of the lot. The Dutchman’s issues of the past had mirrored Bayern’s form. They had threatened to win in 2010, but were ultimately outdone by Inter. Last term, they dominated for long spells in their own stadium but lost to Chelsea. This time, Robben and Bayern got the result they craved.
For Dortmund, there was the perhaps hollow truth that for long stretches of the first half they had been the superior side, dictating the play, starving Bayern’s ball-playing midfielders of possession and generally making the better chances. But for Jurgen Klopp and his squad there was to be no reward.
Instead, the familiar sight of Bayern playing in the Champions League final ended with the more unfamiliar pictures of them lifting the trophy. And it was thanks to the performance of Robben that they gave Jupp Heynckes the send-off he deserved.
Bayern’s delight, at long, long last, was made possible by Robben’s redemption.