The 75 per cent of the German population willing Borussia Dortmund, the romantic underdogs, to become Champions' League winners here last night were thwarted by Arjen Robben's late goal that decided one of the most thrilling European finals of recent memory. So often a loser on the big day – including a World Cup final – the former Chelsea winger added the continent's greatest club prize to his FA Cup winner's medal with Chelsea by keeping his head for a fine finish having set up by Franck Ribéry.
If Borussia tired in the last half-hour as a result of their relentless earlier pressing and harrying, they contributed in a manner to make their yellow wall of supporters proud. They are some underdogs, this team whose bark and bite shocked Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid 4-1 in the semi-final. Falling behind to the Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic just before the hour, they equalised through Ilkay Gündogan's penalty only seven minutes later, only to fail and fall right at the death.
Those supporters brought all the noise and passion of the Westfalenstadion from the Ruhr to suburban London and were undoubtedly the noisier, although the defence's wall proved less solid when Bayern finally applied some pressure. Although Robben was named as the official man of the match, Dortmund could claim to have had the genuine best performer in midfielder Marco Reus, justifying those who believe that he is more important to the team than even Mario Götze, who to the disgust of their supporters is bound for Bayern at a cost of £31m. Whether Robert Lewandowski, who had few chances last night, is to join him remains as yet unresolved.
The game lived up to everything the partisan fans and the few neutrals were hoping for. Borussia dominated for the first 25 minutes, then conceded chances. The earliest ones were theirs, however, and required Germany's No 1 goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to be at his sharpest. In the 13th minute he turned a fine drive from Lewandowski over the bar as the referee Nicola Rizzoli played advantage after a foul on Reus. Before the corner was cleared, Bayern left too much space down their left and Reus crossed low to the near post where Jakub Blaszczykowski shot first time, Neuer instinctively parrying with his outstretched leg.
The goalkeeper then took no chances in fisting away Reus's shot and from the subsequent corner – Dortmund's fourth in quick succession – Sven Bender met Kevin Grosskreutz's cut-back and Neuer had to save again.
Yet midway through the half, as if a bell had sounded, the flow changed; and would only be interrupted before the interval by one break in which Lewandowski, fed by Reus, ran out of room too close to Neuer.
The needle that has grown up over the past few seasons of intense rivalry was never far away and Ribéry was fortunate not to receive the game's first card for throwing an arm at Lewandowski.
Relieved, he immediately crossed for Mandzukic to have a header pushed on to the bar and over for a corner, from which Javi Martinez headed on to the roof of the net.
Robben had been wandering across the line from his berth on the right to bring Bayern into the game and three times in a few minutes he spurned an opportunity for the opening goal. Twice the left-back Marcel Schmelzer had gone missing but the former Chelsea man could not take advantage, allowing Roman Weidenfeller to save, then getting the ball caught under his foot and winning no more than a corner.
Finally, one long pass put the central defender Mats Hummels in trouble and when Robben swung a foot, the ball hit Weidenfeller in the face for a painful but crucial save.
At last 86,298 paying spectators and the huge worldwide television audience could catch their breath.
When play resumed they saw a rare period of scrappy football suddenly ended by two chances for Bayern, the second of which they took. If the first was difficult, a flicked-on corner coming at Mandzukic too fast, the second was unmissable. Ribéry sent Robben to the byline to jab a square cross beyond Schmelzer's lunge, leaving the Croatian striker with a jubilant tap-in in front of the Bavarian hordes.
Their joy was short-lived. The Brazilian Dante was guilty of a careless high foot on Reus that brought an obvious penalty. Gündogan took four short steps and cut the ball past Neuer, helpless for the first time.
As players tired, the space grew and Bayern began to make the better use of it. In one extraordinary incident Müller broke down the right and his shot eluded Weidenfeller and was going in until the right-back Neven Subotic somehow scraped the ball away, bringing a leap and clenched fist from the hyperactive Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp.
The Klopptimists at the other end must have been concerned and Weidenfeller had to save from fierce 25-yarders by David Alaba and Bastian Schweinsteiger, who showed no sign of the apparently heavy knock he took during the warm-up.
The favourites had come to look the more likely winners and they proved it with barely 90 seconds left on the big-screen clocks. A little flick by Ribéry and one lucky touch off a defender fell perfectly for Robben, who still had a defender and a goalkeeper to sidestep before a calmest of finishes.
Bayern finished 25 points ahead of Dortmund in the Bundesliga, with 98 goals against 18, yet the gap never looked anything like that last night. They do, however, have a fifth European Cup – joining Liverpool on the list – to go with five losing finals, two of them in the past four years.
Borussia Dortmund (4-2-3-1): Weidenfeller; Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer; Bender (Sahin, 90), Gündogan; Blaszczykowski (Schieber, 90), Reus, Grosskreutz; Lewandowski.
Bayern Munich (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba; Javi Martinez, Schweinsteiger; Robben, Müller, Ribéry (Dias, 90); Mandzukic (Gomez, 90).
Referee Nicola Rizzoli (Italy).
Man of the match Robben (Bayern Munich).
Match rating 9/10.