After a season that no one expected, in a year that let us down at every turn, the one thing we can all share as a net positive when we look back at 2020 is that Bayern Munich are the champions of Europe!
In the midst of a pandemic of unexpected proportions, it was a team that won every single game in the UEFA Champions League that won the rights to hoist the trophy. This Bayern team has been through coaching changes, tactical changes, an identity crisis of sorts, and moments where they could have easily been doubted. And now, on a humid night in Lisbon, Der Rekordmeister has once again become Der Europameister and secured the second treble in their history. The players of the match:
Jersey Swap: Keylor Navas
Despite letting in the one goal that ended his team’s chances at the title, the first half was amazing for Keylor Navas. In a half that was full of defensive acuity, Keylor Navas kept a level head and made as many saves as he could. Unfortunately for him, it was a tiny defensive slip-up from his back line that allowed an open Coman to send a headed ball into the back of the net. After facing 12 shots over the whole of the game, he was one of the best performers on the team.
Tip of the Cap: Joshua Kimmich
It’s never easy for anyone when they’re facing one of the greatest young players in the world, and yet for (a majority) of this game, Joshua Kimmich was able to keep Kylian Mbappé at bay and silent in attack. While the Bayern back line showed moments of utter brilliance, it was the consistency and pace of Joshua Kimmich that allowed Die Roten to contain the speed of PSG’s attackers and kept them out of the game. It was an amazing performance for the right-back turned defensive midfielder, turned right-back right back again.
Golf Clap: Kingsley Coman
It was Kingsley Coman’s goal that set the team ahead of the opponent. While many of us were wondering if the Croatian sensation Ivan Perišić would start at left wing, Hansi Flick decided to start the healthy former PSG prospect Kingsley Coman. The result payed off. After delivering a good first-half performance led to a questionable penalty non-call, Coman was able to break down the wing play of Thilo Kehrer and showed the quality of this Bayern side. The goal came in the 59’ minute after a beautiful ball from Joshua Kimmich was lofted into the box. Coman got his head to it as he sent it to the left of Navas’s outstretched arms and into the net.
Standing Ovation: Manuel Neuer
The Great Wall stood firm this game. Manuel showed his quality as a keeper and came up time and time again to pull off saves from close range, an area which he is prone to letting in goals. While he faced a total of 8 shots all game, the three that were on target came early and often. Shots from Marquinhos, Neymar, and Mbappe were all snuffed out thanks to the hands and feet of Neuer and for that, he deserves to be here on this list.
Meister of the Match: Thiago Alcantara
In what may have been his final match in a Bayern Munich uniform, Thiago Alcantara put forth what may have been the greatest performance of his career. Bayern’s offensive taskmaster brought an excellent pass rating of 88% and was crucial in the buildup to all of the offensive chances the team created. If not for the energy, accuracy, and timeliness of Thiago’s passing, Bayern may not have finished holding the trophy above their heads. Thiago fully deserves Meister of the Match and if he leaves the club, he will do so as a Bayern legend.
- If I were to hand another award to PSG, it would be to German Thilo Kehrer. The right back was a pest and continued stymieing the Bayern wingers who tried to push into the box.
- Niklas Süle came off the bench much sooner than anyone expected after Jerome Boateng went down with an injury in the 24’. After coming on, Süle was powerful and quick in defense, working well with David Alaba to shut down PSG’s attack for the most part.
- Leon Goretzka worked well with Thiago Alcantara in midfield helping the Bayern double pivot establish itself early.
- Hansi Flick. That is all.