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From sinner to saint, the redemption of Robben is completed at Wembley

SOME 20 minutes after the final whistle at last night's Champions League final, Arjen Robben stood alone on the barrier at the edge of the Bayern Munich end and led the crowd in celebration, as his team-mates looked on respectfully.

This was his moment. This was a man redeemed. A year ago, Robben was the villain who effectively ruined Bayern's "Football's Coming Home" opus. At the Allianz Arena, against a rag-tag Chelsea side, Robben's Bayern had been greeted with a giant banner that read: "Our club. Our city. Our cup."

It did not play out that way and Robben took the brunt of the blame. It was he who tried to win the game single-handedly, embarking on repeated blind alley dribbling runs.

It was he who seemingly ignored team-mates in acres of space, electing to shoot from every possible angle. And it was he who had his penalty saved by Petr Cech in extra time as Chelsea went on to win on penalties.

For much of this season, the Dutchman had shown only flashes of his talent in Jupp Heynckes' steamroller. He didn't quite fit the team ethic, he was in and he was out, and he would end the season with just 11 Bundesliga starts.

By the new year, Heynckes' saw him more as super sub, at least in the big games, shifting Thomas Muller into his wide position and relying on the guile and creativity of Toni Kroos centrally. But then, on April 2, against Juventus, Kroos broke down.

Muller reverted to the central spoiler role and the flank was handed back to Robben. He must have known the clock was ticking. He was entering the final two years of his contract, a time when clubs tend to shed their high-prices stars, especially with a new boss, Pep Guardiola, coming in next season. This was sink or swim time.

For much of the first half at Wembley last night Bayern were blitzed by Borussia Dortmund's high intensity pinball. What chances they got came on the break and via individuals, as Dortmund's lung-bursting performance inevitably led to defensive lapses.

On no fewer than three occasions Robben popped up in front of Borussia goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller. And each time we saw the good and the bad in Robben.

He streaked to pounce on Muller's crossfield ball, but then failed to seize the moment. He burst through on the right flank and then spent too much time on the ball as if trying to hypnotise Neven Subotic when he could have either shot or found the unmarked Mario Mandzukic.

And then, he pounced on Mats Hummels' blunder, showing strength and intuition, only to, once again, be denied by Weidenfeller.

This was Robben the solo artist whose individual riffs are as ultimately futile as they are breathtaking. The Robben who risks frustrating his team-mates because they know if they feed him the ball, they won't get it back.

Yet it was a different Flying Dutchman who soared on to the pitch after the interval. A give-and-go with Franck Ribery saw him burst through the Borussia lines, forcing Weidenfeller to come and meet him.

This time, a little, calm shimmy took the goalkeeper out of the picture and, rather than shoot, Robben had the foresight to set up Mandzukic for the easy finish in the open net.

But it was Robben's goal – and a very un-Robben-like goal it was – that ultimately won the match. He was willing to throw himself into a knot of Borussia defenders seemingly incapable of clearing the ball and squirted out of the scrum with it at his feet, just long enough to turn Weidenfeller inside out and deposit it across the line.

Sport doesn't often give second chances, but Robben was there to seize his in the second half last night. The fact that what happened in the previous 45 minutes led many – and maybe Robben too – to believe that we were seeing a re-run of last season's debacle makes it all the more special.

Robben's performance also serves to remind us that while teamwork, cohesion and tactics can take you very far, sometimes you need a gifted individual to complete the burst across the finish line.

Bayern may have been dominant in the Bundesliga this year, Heynckes may have built a perfect machine, but last night it was Jurgen Klopp's mad science that was winning the tactical battle. Mandzukic was seeing little of the ball, Bastian Schweinsteiger was having an off night, Ribery was ineffective and Muller was speeding into cul-de-sacs.

In those conditions, it takes either a tactical reorganisation or individual brilliance to turn the tide. Robben delivered the latter.

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