Champions League: Methodical Bayern Munich battle past Paris Saint-Germain to claim sixth European Cup
Heading into the match against PSG, it seemed rather inevitable that this new look Bayern would rip the French club from limb to limb, but the actual match turned out to be much closer than expected
In the 88th minute of the Champions League final, as Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) desperately chased an equaliser, Manuel Neuer made an incredible save. It was just one in a string of saves he'd made on the night, but unlike the others, it wasn't really important. When Kylian Mbappe had taken the shot, he was at least a couple of yards offside, a fact that Neuer had to have known. But still, he made the save, with mechanical, unerring, stereotypically German efficiency.
That one moment defined how Bayern have approached football under Hansi Flick this season. They've rediscovered the ruthlessly methodical style that has come to be associated with them over the years, and employed it to great effect in their victorious Bundesliga and DFB Pokal title campaigns. Their dominance has also extended to European competition, where they've torn apart the likes of Barcelona, Chelsea and Lyon with consummate ease.
Heading into the match against PSG, it seemed rather inevitable that this new look Bayern would rip the French club from limb to limb, but the actual match turned out to be much closer than expected. It wasn't the goalfest that everyone thought it would be. Instead, the Estadio da Luz played witness to a tense, tetchy affair, filled with bruising fouls and a lot of hard running, as a solitary 59th-minute goal by Kingsley Coman proved to be the difference.
For the most part, PSG looked lethargic. Just seconds after the whistle blew, it became clear that it was going to be a long night for Neymar and Co, as they struggled to beat Bayern's high press. On several instances in the first 15 minutes or so, PSG defenders gifted the ball to Bayern's tireless attackers whilst attempting to play their way out of trouble, leading to a few half-chances for the Bavarians early on. Eventually though, PSG grew into the game, and even enjoyed a pretty good spell towards the end of the first half, but they failed to capitalise on any of the chances they created.
Each of PSG's three highly-touted attackers had opportunities to put the Parisians ahead, with Neymar's coming earliest. The Brazilian was played through on goal, but the angle was a little tight, and Neuer made a comfortable save. Next up, Argentine international Angel Di Maria found himself facing goalwards after a delightful exchange with Ander Herrera, but his rushed shot blazed over the crossbar. The best of PSG's chances fell at the feet of World Cup-winning youngster Kylian Mbappe, who was gifted the ball by a stray pass from David Alaba, but his shot was tame and the ball was easily collected by the keeper.
Bayern had chances in the first half too, but none were as straightforward as those missed by PSG. Robert Lewandowski made a nuisance of himself in the PSG box, constantly harassing and harrying defenders, and he came close to adding to his tally of 15 Champions League goals on two occasions. The first opportunity was a half-chance at best, as he swivelled on the edge of the box and sent a scuffed volley towards Keylor Navas' goal. The ball bounced awkwardly, hit the post and was cleared by a PSG defender. The second chance was just as difficult, as a miscued header by Presnel Kimpembe found its way onto Lewandowski's head. The Polish striker did well to test Navas, but he didn't have enough time to get his shot truly under control.
The teams went into the half-time interval level after a tense, nerve-wracking first 45 minutes. At this point, PSG should have thought back to the demolition of Barcelona, and reminded themselves that they couldn't afford to get complacent against this Bayern side. Unfortunately, that's not what happened. Bayern came out of their dressing rooms with a sense of urgency, and right away, they began to find chance after chance. When the goal came in the 59th minute, it was very much with the run of play.
Coman's name will adorn the headlines for the next few weeks, but it was really Joshua Kimmich's ingenuity that led to the goal. After a neat series of passes with Serge Gnabry and Thomas Muller, Kimmich got his head up, saw Coman waiting unmarked on the far post, and scooped a delightful little ball right onto his head. The pass was inch-perfect, and all Coman had to do was to get his header on target. Navas stood no chance. Bayern were ahead, and rightfully so. The goal was made even more special by the fact that Coman was the scorer, a Paris native who has played for PSG before. Everything about it just felt right.
The following 30 minutes were largely academic. PSG huffed and puffed and did their best to draw level, but they looked toothless in attack. Their best opportunity to equalise came in the 70th minute when Marquinhos was put through on goal, but the ever-dependable Neuer saved the shot with an outstretched foot. Other than that one chance, it just didn't click for the French champions. They'd lost their swagger, they'd come undone. Bayern managed to get to the final whistle unharmed, and after seven years, the treble was theirs again.
PSG's fans are set for their first glimpse of Messi at home after his summer arrival from Barcelona. Messi came close to his first goal when he hit the crossbar against Brugge.
Bayern head into Europe buoyed by results, with 10 points from their first four league games, and confident in their current squad despite no big-name signing this summer.
PSG are at home to Montpellier at the weekend, when it remains to be seen if Messi will return. They then host Manchester City in the Champions League next Tuesday, 28 September.