A year ago in the UEFA Champions League Final, Bayern Munich were seconds away from lifting the trophy in their home stadium until a Didier Drogba goal sent the game into the extra time, eventually leading to a Chelsea victory. A player that received much blame and criticism for the loss was Arjen Robben.
For most of the first 89 minutes of the game, it appeared as if Robben was to again going to have to deal with the label of failing to come up big in a final. Until this season, he had been known as a supremely skilled player, but one that was very selfish, only thought about shooting at goal and as a result, hurt his team in key games.
The first half of the game saw the old Robben show up. He was able to beat his defender on a couple of occasions and found himself one-on-one versus Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller, only to have him stop his shots on goal when it was more advantageous to pass the ball to a nearby teammate for a better chance to score.
This prompted scores of people, including myself, to take to Twitter and state how Robben was up to his old selfish ways and this could doom Bayern if they happen to lose the game.
The start of second half proved to be different for Robben as his continued runs at a Dortmund defense that kept getting pinned back deeper into their own half as the game went along, leading to the first goal of the game. Robben, in a rare moment of him playing on the left wing, was able to get towards the touchline and cross a well-placed pass that Mario Mandzukic slotted in for a 1-0 lead for Bayern.
On past occasions and during the first half, Robben would have looked to shoot instead of making the smarter play of passing. Luckily for Bayern and their fans, he did not.
As the second half went along and Dortmund drew level, Robben’s critics took to Twitter to criticize him for not throwing himself at a Thomas Muller shot/cross that Neven Subotic cleared off the line. In a moment where he could have shown heart and desire, he failed to do so in their eyes.
But in the 89th minute, on his 25th shot on goal in a Champions League Final, Robben quieted many as he broke through after a give-and-go with Franck Ribery to calmly slot home the game-winner.
In soccer, there is a statement saying that the sport offers a chance for redemption after a tough loss. For an embattled player like Arjen Robben who divides opinion, his game-winner to give Bayern Munich it’s fifth European Cup/Champions League title proved that he can rise to the occasion and produce.
In the end, Robben delivered, and delivered when his team needed him the most. And with that, he silenced all of those who criticized.