Maddening Robben finds way to be a hero

Updated: 2013-05-27 05:37

By Reuters in London (China Daily)

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Maddening Robben finds way to be a hero

Bayern winger sets up one goal, scores another in a 2-1 victory

Arjen Robben's Champions League final was a microcosm of his career as the Bayern Munich winger perplexed opponents, left teammates waiting in vain for passes, infuriated fans and produced two match-winning moments.

As usual, the Dutchman stubbornly refused to contemplate using his right foot in a man-of-the-match performance.

Throughout his career with PSV Eindhoven, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Bayern and the Netherlands, Robben has been an exasperating enigma.

The winger's critics are dismayed by his histrionics and cannot fathom how his entirely predictable ploy of speeding down the right flank and then cutting inside to shoot with his left foot repeatedly catches international class defenders unawares.

Many see him as overly individualistic.

Last year, Robben was the villain when he missed an extra-time spot kick in the 1-1 draw against Chelsea in the Champions League final in Munich before his side lost on penalties.

At Wembley, he displayed all his familiar traits but he was also a constant threat to the Dortmund defense, setting up one goal before scoring an 89th minute winner to give the treble-chasing Bavarians a dramatic 2-1 win over their great rivals.

"I was ready today," he said after receiving the man-of-the-match award from former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.

"I had played the game in my head.... yet when you score in the last minute to win, it's a dream. It's very difficult for me to believe at the moment."

"It's the highest place you can get - winning the Champions League is something some of us have missed out on.

"In addition to last year, I personally lost a World Cup final (against Spain three years ago) and the 2010 Champions League final. "You don't want the loser tag, but today everything worked out and I can forget about those defeats."

The Dutchman was the chief culprit for the goal-less first half as he wasted Bayern's best two chances, partly because he insisted on keeping the ball on his tried and trusted left foot.

Having been sent clean through on goal, he squandered precious split seconds by teeing up a shot for his left foot, then produced a failed attempt at a Lionel Messi style dink that goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller was able to turn away.

Shortly afterwards, Robben had a gilt-edged chance as the ball rebounded kindly to him off a defender, yet once again he shot straight at Weidenfeller.

By and large, Dortmund succeeded in fencing him in during the first half and he trudged off at the break looking as if he might endure a repeat of last season's nightmare.

In the second half, however, Robben varied his repertoire.

He moved to the left for a spell and it was from there that he combined with Franck Ribery and dribbled past Weidenfeller to leave Mario Mandzukic to tap into an empty net for the opener.

Robben's winner also came from the left as he controlled Ribery's pass under pressure and slotted home past Weidenfeller.

Afterward, he appeared to hit back at suggestions he is individualistic, saying: "I always feel responsibility when I play football. It's a team sport, a team performance and we're a real team, we fight for each other, run for each other."

(China Daily 05/27/2013 page23)