Bayern Munich have joined Liverpool to win their 6th Champions League title after they beat PSG 1-0 in Lisbon.
The final was the opposite of what many thought it would be; full of goals and excitement. After all there were arguably 3 of the deadliest strikers in Europe on the pitch in the form of PSG’s Neymar and Kylian Mbappe and Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski. All three threatened to score, but none of them did.
In truth the final was a turgid affair which was riddled with mistakes, unforgivable for the quality that was on the pitch. Time and again both sets of teams made the wrong choices of pass and easily lost possession, that can happen but when it is under no pressure from the opposing team it feels like fatal viewing.
Bayern played much like they did against Lyon in the semi-finals, tactically aware as the game went on but not forcing themselves on the game. They are a team who are the best in Europe but under Hansi Flick also a team that do not feel comfortable in the game until they get that first goal. That is why it was unfortunate that PSG was not able to open the scoring and through Neymar they really should have. Manuel Neuer made a superb double save instead, in a rare golden chance for the French champions.
For much of the game Lewandowski traded goal mouth chances with falling over- some fouls looked genuine, others did not and he was not the only one feigning injury, or at least going over too easy. Neymar regrettably did the same towards the end of the game in which all of those ingredients that have made a passing fan loathe his style of play at times were highlighted. This was unfortunate given that every football fan was watching him on his stage as opposed to Ligue 1 football.
It was still an awesome sight at times to see both Neymar and Mbappe running at the Bayern defence. That’s £400m worth of talent there- a tornado about to engulf the Bayern defence, but we only ended up seeing this genuine attacking play on three occasions. Mostly in the first half.
On the hour mark Bayern got their goal and the one that would end up winning it. No Lewandowski heroics, though he had hit the post earlier in the game after a trademark spin, no Thomas Muller searing away with that smile either. Instead it was Kingsley Coman a PSG fan since a boy and the youngster prized away from Juventus a few seasons ago. Bayern coach Hansi Flick had mostly used Coman as a super sub, this time he gave him the nod to start the final. It paid dividends. A good forceful header was enough to beat Kaylor Navas and the game dearly needed a goal.
At that and with 30 minutes to go one would have thought PSG would have been relentless, instead it was Bayern on the attack looking to kill the game with a 2nd goal. Indeed Bayern for the large majority of the remaining time contained the threat of PSG. By this time Neymar, the golden boy looked tired. Mbappe the only golden boy did make some daring runs into the Bayern area with his quick feet and looked like he had been fouled for a penalty late on. The problem was that the referee waved it on given that Mbappe had made a meal of earlier fouls.
Angel Di Maria had moments of brilliance one involved a beautiful unseen pass, that reminded older football fans of Fernando Redondo’s exquisite move for Real Madrid to open up Manchester United 20 years ago. That move ended in a goal unlike Di Maria’s.
It was hard to take for PSG, Mbappe’s first half miss in front of goal when he appeared to pass back to Neuer rather than shoot isn’t easy to swallow for anyone considering the money he cost the club. But that shot summed up PSG’s evening, they were turgid and hollow.
Bayern in the end did enough and some of their defensive work as the game went on was superb. It was hardly a vintage display by the all conquering champions and yet it was something to be afraid of. Here we have a Bayern Munich side who can turn it on with goals and devastating attacking play, just ask Barcelona. But we also have a team that appear to have a plan b, one that can change the pace of the game to suit themselves and retreat with confidence when they have too.
It was inevitable at the final whistle that Neymar burst into tears as his dream of winning the competition with PSG was left in tatters. But Neymar will shine once more on his stage. There was perhaps more sympathy awarded to Thomas Tuchel the PSG coach who looked in genuine pain on his crutches following his foot injury a few weeks before, pain and disappointment is always going to be a toxic mix.
Attentions will turn to who will pick up the world player of the year in a season that has been strange to say the least. One could do little wrong in surely handing that trophy over to Manuel Neuer.