How They Got Here: Dortmund and Bayern's Road to the Final

Lennart Preiss

Though many predicted one of, if not both these teams to reach this match, both campaigns had their moments of doubt and of triumph.

An all-German final in London of all places, Wembley Stadium of all arenas, is perhaps the best stage outside of Germany to host this match that will serve as the climax of German football's year at the end of the Bundesliga's golden anniversary season.

Though Jürgen Klopp will likely be grabbing the headlines for days to come (just as he has at every opportunity since the English-speaking press took notice of him and BVB not too long ago), even he couldn't have been 100% confident that Dortmund would advance out of their group the evening of the draw.

The so-called "Group of Death" contained BVB, 2012 semifinalists Real Madrid, Premier League champions Manchester City (who were built from the start with the intention of winning this competition) and an always-threatening and talented Ajax side (who keep getting really unlucky with these draws, don't they?) with the next generation of European talent occupying nearly every position for the Eredivisie winners.

Meanwhile, there was little doubt as to whether or not Bayern would be able to make it out of their group. Only Valencia seemed to be a real threat compared to Lille and BATE Borisov. It was apparent that it would take a disastrous run of form for FCB to finish third or worse, unless placing was to be determined by the ability to make cheap jokes while poking fun at the name of one's club.

Oddly enough, it was BATE Borisov that pushed Bayern to their worst performance in the competition this season, defeating the Germans by a score of 3-1 at home with Bayern only able to get a stoppage time goal to get the deficit back to one before conceding one last time to seal their defeat. Away from the Allianz Arena, Bayern beat Lille and drew to Valencia 1-1. The Bavarians won all three home matches to finish tied for first in the group at 13 points with Valencia, who were placed second officially due to the head-to-head record between the two since Valencia could only muster a draw at home to Bayern's victory in Germany.

Dortmund's UCL season began with a 1-0 victory over Ajax at home through a late goal by Robert Lewandowski three minutes from time. They managed a only a draw in Manchester after leading into the final minute before a Subotic handball allowed for Mario Balotelli to equalize from the penalty spot. They returned home to defeat Real Madrid 2-1 before blowing yet another late lead, this time at the Bernabeu to Mesut Özil and Real in the 89th minute of play and left with only one point of the possible three. The black and yellows then had little troubling dispatching of Ajax and City to finish the phase atop Group F with 14 points and an undefeated record.

Bayern then drew Arsenal and Dortmund were selected to play Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk in the first knockout phase of the competition.

The Reds played a brilliant first leg in London that appeared to send them clear of Arsenal, winning 3-1 from goals by Toni Kroos, Thomas Müller and Mario Mandzukic. Arsenal got one back with former Bayern player Lukas Podolski and it looked like the Bavarians were high and dry, only needing to avoid losing by three goals at home in order to advance.

Dortmund's first leg against Shakhtar went a little less well; they needed a Mats Hummels goal in the 87th minute to tie the match at 2-2.

The two teams played each other in the quarter-final of the DFB-Pokal between legs of the first knockout round in the Champions League. Bayern eliminated BVB, winning 1-0 through a Robben wondergoal just before halftime in Munich.

The second leg for Bayern would turn out to be nothing like the first; they could hardly muster a decent attack and played like they were okay with losing by one or two goals. Giroud scored for the Gunners inside the first five minutes and Bayern seemed to settle in but couldn't get around the Arsenal defense for the decisive goal. Then, just five minutes or so from time, Laurent Koscielny pulled Arsenal level on aggregate. Bayern managed not to concede after that and advanced on the away goals rule, but the near-exit left a bitter taste in the collective mouth of the organization that probably served as a valuable lesson as far as their preparation for future second legs was concerned.

Dortmund, on the other hand, passed the test of their second leg with flying colors. Shakhtar never really threatened the BVB goal while Die Schwarzgelben were having plenty of fun on the other end of the field. Three goals later, Dortmund advanced comfortably, 5-2 on aggregate.

Before the matches were played, the tie of the round was thought to be played in Munich and Turin. After, however, most were saying that it took place in Malaga and Dortmund.

With a touch of luck, Bayern took a 2-0 advantage to Italy. David Alaba's goal just 25 seconds into the match picked up a very favorable deflection along the way. Despite that, FCB were clearly the better team and on a better day would have thrashed the Italians by four or maybe five goals.

Dortmund's first leg with Malaga was a stand-offish 0-0 draw in Spain that provided very few remarkable moments, in stark contrast to how the second leg would be described.

Keeping in mind the away goals rule, Malaga only needed a draw if they could manage a goal in Dortmund. That goal would come in the 25th minute from a gorgeous Joaquin cutback that was just out of Roman Weidenfeller's reach, and then in the 82nd minute when Eliseu scored a tap-in (from an offside position) to give BVB only eight minutes plus stoppage time to find two goals since Lewandowski scored in between the two Malaga goals.

One minute into stoppage time, Marco Reus put BVB level on aggregate after a flurry of activity in the box led to him having the ball land at his feet meters from goal.

Roughly 70 seconds later, another crazy sequence in the box occurred where as a viewer, it was hard to tell who actually had the ball and if they were offside or not. Felipe Santana eventually knocked in the winning goal, sending the Signal Iduna Park into a frenzy, and sending Borussia Dortmund into the semifinal.

Having learned their lesson from the previous round, Bayern's second leg was not nearly as interesting. Though Juventus made a better account of themselves than in the first leg, they couldn't sustain pressure long enough on Bayern and eventually fell by the same score they lost the first leg by, 2-0.

For the semifinals, it was to be Germany vs. Spain as BVB drew former groupmates Real Madrid, leaving Bayern to face Barcelona.

Shocking to many but not so much for fans of the club, a weak Barcelona that was built upon an injured plaer did not fare very well in Munich. Perhaps four goals to Barca's zero was more than was expected, but without a healthy Messi, all of Barcelona's possession went nowhere. Bayern took their chances well and put one foot in Wembley before going to Spain.

Dortmund followed the same plan, although they conceded a goal at home, to only win 4-1 at home. A stunning four goals from Robert Lewandowski (the last three going unanswered) had Dortmund fans making arrangements with their red-clad German counterparts in Bavaria for a May date in London.

BVB's second leg would turn out to be very much like Bayern's against Arsenal; a very big lead to protect and a near-failure to do so over the 90 minutes. Dortmund looked to be safe before a furious finish saw them concede two of the three goals necessary to be eliminated in the final 10 minutes. Those two goals afforded Real about five minutes to grab the winner, but they were unable to poke their noses over the finish line and Dortmund were the first to officially qualify for the Champions League Final.

The next day, Bayern played with as much class and quality as they had in the first leg, winning 3-0 at the Nou Camp against a Messi-less Barcelona team that continued to lack the teeth necessary to probe forward with out their superstar No. 10. A signature Robben goal, a Gerard Pique own-goal, and a Thomas Müller header sent Bayern to the final for the second time in as many years, and the third time in four.

Both teams had remarkable and memorable runs to the final, but given the nature of this rivalry, I doubt either will remember it favorably if they don't leave England as champions of Europe.

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