Sport Soccer

Tuesday 28 January 2020

FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED AT WEMBLEY

The pace of this game showed why Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund advanced to the final. Across the course of the competition, the two strongest teams came to the fore, performing at an intensity that other teams simply couldn't match.

TEAM SURVIVED

The pace of this game showed why Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund advanced to the final. Across the course of the competition, the two strongest teams came to the fore, performing at an intensity that other teams simply couldn't match.

Bayern steamrolled a tired Barcelona side at the semi-final stage, while the greyhound-like burst from the traps that Dortmund produced on Saturday was similar to what decided their joust with Real Madrid; the difference was they converted their chances at the penultimate stage.

It was the same in the group stages, with the fluid, relentless Dortmund exposing a surprisingly laboured Manchester City outfit.

Any suggestion that the top two English clubs could have won the competition this year is far fetched, for it is hard to make an argument that they could have matched the Bundesliga pair over two legs at any juncture. The spine of the Manchester United team has plenty of miles on the clock.

The Premier League is famed for being played at one hundred miles an hour, yet the German pair have managed to replicate that while regaining a little more control of the ball. In the end, Bayern lasted the course, with Dortmund so out on their feet in the final minutes that they were too fatigued to cope with a straightforward long ball.

The early sprint from Jurgen Klopp's men would have knackered most opponents; Bayern triumphed because they had the resolve to withstand it and last the course.

TWO TEAMS FROM SAME

LEAGUE CAN BE ENTERTAINING

There were concerns that having two teams from the same country would, in some way, dilute the final as a spectacle. Ultimately, though, this was a game that lived up to its prestigious title and provided the entertainment that the global audience would have expected.

Understandably, there were fears that the familiarity which the protagonists have with each other could lead to a cagey encounter. Indeed, recent games between the sides on German soil have followed that pattern.

Instead, what developed was an open and absorbing end-to-end battle that made it a worthy final, with the din created by both set of fans also delivering a genuine sense of occasion in contrast to the corporate silence that can sometimes envelop these events.

MARCO REUS CAN EASE PAIN OF DORTMUND DEPARTURES

They may have sold Mario Goetze to Saturday's victors and face losing Robert Lewandowski, but Marco Reus could still be the real jewel in the Dortmund crown. He was excellent on Saturday, producing a power-packed display that was also rich in football intelligence.

Reus has plenty of pace and an explosive ability to find another gear, but his movement is sharp too and he was at the heart of Dortmund's best moments. His endeavour forced the penalty and he also threatened from distance twice in the first half, yet he also showed the awareness to release Lewandowski with one threaded through ball that deserved a better response.

The 23-year-old is already an established performer, but he has the potential to become the outstanding figure of this exciting generation of German players. Certainly, while he stays on Dortmund's books, they should retain ambitions of being extremely competitive

DAVID ALABA CAN LIFT

AUSTRIA TO SECOND

PLACE IN GROUP C

The slightest mention of the Austrian's name brings back horrible memories of that 92nd-minute equaliser at the Aviva Stadium in March which has left Giovanni Trapattoni's men with a mountain to climb ahead of the business end of World Cup Group C.

Alaba is a different animal for Bayern Munich, deployed as an attacking left-back rather than the midfield dynamo role that he performs for his country. He did illustrate some inexperience here, almost getting caught out with a rash first half advance and loss of possession that nearly led to a Dortmund goal.

However, he grew into the game, and his enthusiasm was a factor in their rousing finish. He is operating at a level above every current Irish player and he has been more influential than Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the group to date.

If he can carry this attitude into the June 7 meeting between Austria and Sweden in Vienna, the hosts can make a significant move.

WEMBLEY HIGHLIGHTS

THE GOOD AND BAD OF

MICHEL PLATINI'S LOGIC

The FA's 150th anniversary celebrations are the main reason that the final was brought back to London just two years after Barcelona delivered a masterclass to Manchester United, but the success of that occasion was also a factor.

No venue is perfect, but, in terms of a supporter experience, the home of English football ticks many of the boxes that should accompany a game of this status. With no shortage of routes to get into London, a smooth transport operation within the city, and a solid enough police- driven plan after the game which shortened the queues for the 86,000 people looking to make their way home, it would be understandable if UEFA were keen to come back again.

The ambitions to bring the final to as many countries as possible should be balanced against how easy it is for fans to get there and enjoy the spectacle. Too many recent football events have been awarded to countries and cities which palpably haven't been ready; the logic of picking London for this final contrasts dramatically with Michel Platini's baffling support for Qatar 2022.

Daniel McDonnell

Irish Independent

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