Wasteful Bayern prove the most generous of hosts
The Germans could control the pre-match ritual but you can't choreograph a game
Sunday 20 May 2012
Bayern Munich lost the European Cup in their own stadium and there would be no consolation. They were at home, they dominated every aspect of the match, they hit the post, they had a goal disallowed – they even, entirely against national stereotype, missed a penalty. In the end it came down to a shoot-out at the end where their own fans sat. This, too, they squandered – they had every possible advantage.
It was the most one-sided European Cup final since the last time Bayern Munich faced English opposition for club football's greatest prize. In 1999 they had been overturned by a Manchester United side who barely loosed off a shot at goal until stoppage time. Here, they laid a siege to the Chelsea game for virtually two hours.
Before kick-off a whole end of the stadium was transformed into a wall of red and white with the slogan "Our City, Our Stadium, Our Trophy". In the middle was a vast European Cup. Wembley had not shown its colours for Manchester United last season.
However, this was not in any sense a neutral venue any more than the Olympic Stadium was for Liverpool in1984. The result was the same,a 1-1 draw and penalties, won by the away team.
Then Joe Fagan's side had walked out to face Roma singing: "I Don't Know What It Is But I Like It." Frank Lampard might as well have led his side in a chorus of "This is the Self-Preservation Society". Most of the night was spent merely attempting to survive.
Bayern Munich might have been able to control the pre-match ritual and turn the club song, "Stern des Sudens" (Star of the South) into a banner-waving rally but you cannot choreograph a game of football, not even a European Cup final in your own stadium.
This was a match that did not run to its timetable. Bayern had known for two years that the 2012 European Cup final was to be played in their stadium and, as the season reached its climax, Jupp Heynckes' side must have thought that they would have to overcome Barcelona to take the trophy for the fifth time.
Instead they foundthemselves facing not the best footballing side to have existed but the sixth-best side in the Premier League – and one that was apparently ruined by suspensions. How much simpler did they want it to be?
And yet while in the words of their captain, Philipp Lahm, they "knew every blade of grass on the pitch", this was no ordinary home match. This was the game of their lives and it came with the pressure of their lives.
When Robben stepped up to take his penalty, Bastian Schweinsteiger, the man who had taken the decisive, ice-cold penalty in the semi-final in Madrid, could not bear to watch. Later, he missed the biggest penalty of all.
The stress on Bayern was intense and had been for weeks. It had been given the build-up of an FA Cup final from circa 1972, bar the absence of "It's a Cup Final Knockout", which given the fact that the Germans consider Benny Hill to be a comic genius, might have gone down very well in Munich.
We were told that Bayern's squad would breakfast in the Dolce Hotel in Unterschiessheim at 10.30, that they would have a game of head tennis in the grounds at around 11. Everything bar the time of the first goal had been mapped out.
In the absence of Paul the Octopus, who had predicted the results of all Germany's matches in the 2006 World Cup, Bild, which as a newspaper is The Sun without the subtlety, had found a dachshund called Sissi, who having preferred a bowl of food marked with Bayern Munich's colours, had guaranteed a German victory.
After this long, draining night, she is unlikely to be offered a long-term contract.
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