For the third time in four seasons, FC Bayern München reached the UEFA Champions League final – and, unlike in 2010 and 2012, on this occasion the Munich club prevailed to lift their fifth European Cup.
With defeats against FC Internazionale Milano and, most painfully, Chelsea FC fresh in the memory, Bayern were in determined mood from the season's outset – despite an unexpected loss at FC BATE Borisov on matchday two. First in Group F, Jupp Heynckes' side then eliminated Arsenal FC and Juventus in the knockout rounds before emphasising their quality with a remarkable 7-0 aggregate demolition of FC Barcelona in the last four – the biggest victory in a UEFA Champions League semi-final.
Waiting for Bayern at Wembley were Borussia Dortmund, marking the fourth final between clubs from the same country in the competition's history. Jürgen Klopp's young team had failed to negotiate the group stage in 2011/12 and were handed another tough draw this time, alongside the champions of Spain (Real Madrid CF), England (Manchester City FC) and the Netherlands (AFC Ajax).
Unlike a year ago, however, Dortmund not only survived but thrived, finishing clear of Madrid at the top of the section – with City down in fourth. After FC Shakhtar Donetsk had been overcome in the round of 16, it appeared that debutants Málaga CF would end the Dortmund journey in the quarter-finals, only for Marco Reus and Felipe Santana to score in added time and send Dortmund into the last four. There they faced a reunion with Madrid and – thanks mainly to Robert Lewandowski becoming the first player to score four times in a European Cup semi-final – Klopp's charges emerged unscathed from Madrid's second-leg fightback to book their place in north London.
Dortmund started positively in their second UEFA Champions League final, yet fell behind on the hour as Mario Mandžukić tapped in Arjen Robben's cross. İlkay Gündoğan's penalty swiftly levelled matters – the first goal Bayern had conceded in the tournament in 432 minutes – though it was the Bundesliga champions who looked more likely to snatch a late winner. So it proved in the 89th minute as Robben wriggled through to take the trophy to Bavaria for the first time since 2001.
That was the culmination of a season full of drama and intrigue. Paris Saint-Germain FC collected the most points in the group stage with 15 – Carlo Ancelotti's side went on to reach the last eight for the first time since 1994/95 – while Chelsea became the first holders to fall at the initial group stage, finishing behind Juventus and Shakhtar in Group E.
Málaga celebrated their first appearance in the competition with victories in their opening three games and ended up above seven-time winners AC Milan in Group C. Galatasaray AŞ recovered from taking one point from their first three matches to come runners-up to Manchester United FC in Group H. Meanwhile, becoming the first foreign team to win at Arsenal since September 2003 helped FC Schalke 04 finish ahead of their English rivals at the Group B summit.
In the round of 16, Real Madrid won an epic tie against United while Barça bounced back from a 2-0 first-leg defeat at Milan to triumph 4-0 at the Camp Nou. Both Spanish giants would drop in the semi-finals, though, as the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League took on a German accent – with Munich having the final say.
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