Bayern Munich – Champions of Europe
Bayern Munich – Champions of Europe
The remnants of the dragged out 2019/20 season is finally over, as two powerhouses of the European scene battled it out for the Champions League trophy at Lisbon on Sunday before an empty stadium! The stats before the finals showed they were the two best teams in Europe this season, between them, Bayern Munich and PSG had scored 69 goals and kept 13 clean sheets across 20 UCL games. The narrative before the game was very clear, PSG’s star power versus Bayern’s collective! Both teams were touted to have equal chances to glory: PSG inflicting damage against Bayern’s high line of defence while Bayern with their Pedigree in the European stages.
For Neymar, the first and only £200m man in football, it was a chance to pay back the trust and fire PSG into elite status with a UCL triumph, and finally come out of the shadow of the ‘Messi and Ronaldo’ phenomenon. UCL has long been the missing piece of the puzzle for PSG, a win would have made them a Bonafide giant in the game! For Bayern, it was a chance to clinch their 6th UCL title after a gap of seven years, for the Bavarian giants who seek perfection, this gap would have felt long!
First Half: Wasteful PSG
Both teams had one change in their starting line-up for the game, with PSG boosted by the return of Keylor Navas and Bayern replacing Ivan Perišić with Kingsley Coman. Perišić had started each of the knockout games before and it was kind of a homecoming for the French-born winger Coman, who was a product of PSG’s youth academy and a boyhood PSG fan. The game started slow with both teams taking a conservative approach, Bayern mostly controlled the possession but it was PSG who had better chances in the first half. Bayern seemed aware of the attacking threat of PSG and took to a different approach to their usual pressing style, they let PSG defence pass the ball infield and pressed the midfield with their usual vigour. This approach almost paid off, with Marquinhos and Herrera on two instances robbed off the ball in the midfield. Bayern’s quality in the final third was uncharacteristically poor and they couldn’t take advantage of their possession. The tussle on the left side for Bayern with the pacy duo of Davies and Coman against PSG right-back Kehrer was notable with Coman increasingly growing into the game!
It was largely a cagey affair with both teams cautious not to make an error gifting the opponent with a chance! Halfway through the game, in the space of six minutes, each of the PSG’s front three had a chance inside the Bayern box to put PSG ahead! First, it was Mbappe who hit his shot against a crowd of defenders when he was brilliantly picked out by Paredes. Then it was Neymar who had a chance in the 18th minute when he was put through on the goal by Mbappe, only for Bayern Captain Neuer to make a tremendous double save to thwart the Brazilian! The best of the chances fell to Di Maria in the 23rd minute after playing a one-two with Herrera, but the Argentine winger blasted his chance over the post with his weaker right foot.
Bayern’s best chance of the game fell to Lewandowski when he scuffed a chance past Keylor Navas and into the post from a Davies’ teasing early cross! Niklas Süle replaced Boateng after the German defender aggravated his injury from semi-finals and Bayern eventually took control of the game. They stepped up their attacking intent and controlled the game in the final third and were awarded with a collection of set-pieces! Thiago Silva and Marquinhos put on terrific defensive display for PSG as they struggled to contain the threat of Bayern. Notably, Thiago Silva, playing his 315th and final game for PSG had a typical game at the back with his calm and commanding presence.
The game burst into life in the closing stages of the first-half, with end-to-end attacking display from both the sides. David Alaba almost gift wrapped a goal for PSG when he made mess of a simple pass and gave it straight to Mbappe at the edge of the box. The Frenchman squandered the golden opportunity when he overplayed it and ended the move with a tame shot straight at Neuer. Immediately on the other side, Kehrer who was struggling with the pace and trickery of Coman, brought the Frenchman down inside the penalty area rather awkwardly. Fortunately for him, the Italian referee Daniele Orsato wasn’t convinced it was enough to award Bayern a penalty and the first half ended 0-0.
Mbappe was the definite guilty party for PSG, in all he had 3 shots from inside Bayern’s box with 2 blocked and 1 tame effort. The French striker has clearly looked off-pace since his rushed return from an ankle injury! Manuel Neuer was the best player on the pitch for Bayern, with the German taking the role of a brick wall to deny PSG.
Second Half: Masterful Bayern
The second half started in a similar fashion, scruffy, with both teams fouling each other to breakup the flow of gameplay. Neither team took any chances and were content with long balls and playing it safe.
Eventually, Bayern took control of the situation and set up camp in the PSG half, controlling and bossing the proceedings. PSG midfield and attack were largely anonymous and were desperately clinging on to defend the threat of Bayern. At last, the answer came in the 59th minute from one of PSG’s own, against them. Kingsley Coman finished off a deft early cross from Kimmich with an unchallenged header at the far post. The move was started off by Bayern’s midfield general Thiago with a 20-yard sweeping pass to Kimmich who completed a triangular play with Gnabry and Muller to supply the cross. It was one of the best plays of the game showed Bayern at their best!
Bayern almost doubled the lead immediately, with Coman turning provider but for a crucial Kimpembe interception. PSG looked weary and struggled with the intensity but managed to keep the deficit at one goal through some last ditch defensive action. Thiago Silva made a goal line clearance in the 62nd minute off a Coman shot! PSG tried to shuffle the pack and brought on Draxler and Verratti to ingest some attacking threat but largely remained silent. Neymar struggled to influence the game and was increasingly frustrated and ended up with an yellow card for his troubles. Coman continued to give a torrid time for Kehrer in the left wing!
Bayern looked to keep the intensity on by bringing in Perišić and Coutinho for Coman and Gnabry. The Gloves at last came off for PSG and had a bright spell of their own. In the 72nd minute, Mbappe showed his dazzling feet inside the Bayern box and went down hoping for a Penalty. Replays showed clear contact with Kimmich, but VAR didn’t consider it enough to award a decision. On the balance of play, both teams had a close Penalty call.
Bayern to their credit didn't sit back and defend, they slowed the game down and managed it brilliantly. Their collective work rate and mental strength with the big game mentality proved enough at the end. PSG threatened right at the death with Chupo-Moting snatching at the Lisbon air inside the six-yard box from a Neymar cross, but it was too little too late. PSG had enough chances in both the halves to make a come back but for their woeful display in front of goal. Bayern were the deserving winners, they ended the game with 61% possession and 22 fouls on PSG.
Neuer had a solid game at the back making 4 saves from shots inside the box, with a total of 50 touches, and 30 accurate passes completing 8 long balls. It was Kimmich’s third assist in three successive games that brought the winner.
They became the first team to win the UCL trophy with a perfect record, winning all the eleven games and completing their second treble. It was an impressive showing throughout, they were compact, combative and competitive overcoming giants like PSG, Barcelona, Chelsea, Tottenham in their journey this season. What an year this has been for Hansi Flick, winning the treble in his first ever season as a manager with a record of 33 wins, 2 losses and 1 draw in the 36 games since he took over. Its hard to believe, he took charge of a team that were beaten 5-2 by Eintracht Frankfurt at home!
It was heartbreak at the end for Neymar and Co., but they will have learnt a lot from this experience. Thomas Tuchel deserves another chance to lead PSG, his superstars had brought into his system, even Neymar worked his socks off during the games and proved to be a team player. The Brazilian Superstar will do well to continue with this new found attitude and keep his head down and prepare for the next season without causing any ‘transfer’ speculations.
Stay tuned for more football!
About the Writer:
The writer is Venkateshwaran R, an MBA student from IIT Kharagpur. He is extremely passionate about football and loves the Premier League.
Connect with him on his LinkedIn handle here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/venkateshwaran5twenty/