Bayern Munich came into the game the favorite, and they delivered. But the path to the coveted Champions League trophy was difficult, and Paris Saint-Germain had more chances on goal than any of us would have liked. In the end, though, Bayern Munich’s incredible determination and team spirit carried the day. Robert Lewandowski was moved to tears even though his own efforts to score a goal were thwarted. That is how Bayern Munich wins. Here are five observations on the match.
The cancellation of superstars
Goal-happy Bayern Munich in a final against PSG’s lively attacking trio. Did you predicted a high-scoring game? Well, that is rarely the case when football finals are played at the highest level. If you don’t let in a goal, there’s no chance you will lose in a 90-minute football game. Both masterminds had this thought in mind during the final. Hansi Flick decided against ‘’all-out offense’’ with constant, aggressive pressing and a dangerous high-line. Thomas Tuchel likewise decided not to press, and often the trio of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, and Angel Di María were the only PSG players who pressed Bayern in their half of the field.
The reason? To win games you have to limit opportunities by the other teams’ superstars. Both teams succeeded. Joshua Kimmich was excellent in his duel against Kylian Mbappé and never allowed the lightning-quick superstar to get space. David Alaba, Jerome Boateng and then Niklas Süle, as well as Leon Goretzka and Thiago were fantastic in always breathing down Neymar’s neck whenever he got the ball.
The game plan worked for the losing side as well. Thiago Silva and Presnel Kimpembe both had excellent games and stopped Bayern’s primary offensive duo, Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller, from scoring or creating an attacking threat.
Both teams’ defense, which before the game were labeled the weakness on both sides, were fantastic throughout the game.
Not Neymar's year pic.twitter.com/LNtcd6Rx2q— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) August 23, 2020
Bayern won the midfield battle
What won Bayern Munich their 6th Champions League title was their dominance in midfield and their ability keep possession. The first half was somewhat of a “position war” (in Swedish, a ställningskrig) between the two sides. Both teams tried to feel each other out and were neither confident nor naïve enough to make a blatant offensive tactical move. Yet Bayern still dominated the midfield in the first half.
Crucially, that trend continued in the second. If this was Thiago’s last game for Bayern Munich, he will leave after delivering his greatest performance in a Bayern shirt. The Spanish maestro controlled the tempo and crucially always tracked Neymar’s runs. Goretzka — undeniably bolstered by his obsessive multiple gym sessions during the coronavirus quarantine — almost seemed like another Van Bommel in the midfield. He was mean and bullish, and it was so needed. Thomas Müller, although at times invisible offensively, was also so important in keeping Bayern’s pressing momentum going for a full 95 minutes. The midfield never stopped running, and that is what won Bayern Munich the final.
PSG tried to release their sole creative outlet in the middle, Neymar, but failed to break down Bayern’s relentless midfield. Marco Veratti, perhaps due to lack of fitness, was unable to turn the tide when he came on. PSG seemed to be out creative ideas as the match wore on. In the end, they did not have enough time on the ball to come up surefire chances that could beat Manuel Neuer.
The midfield battle turned out to be the most important of the many battles predicted before the final. Bayern won the war because they won that battle.
Thiago in the #UCLFinal [Bayern rank]:— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) August 23, 2020
85 passes attempted [1st]
75 passes completed [1st]
33 forward passes [1st]
25 final third passes [1st]
7 ball recoveries [=1st]
3 tackles won [=1st]
2 successful take-ons [=1st]
2 interceptions [=1st]
2 key passes [=1st]
World class. pic.twitter.com/tiXYUtfWWQ
The art of defending
Bayern’s defense was, of course, a major part of why Die Roten lifted the trophy in Lisbon this evening. Manuel Neuer showed today why he has no intention of willingly ceding games to Alexander Nübel. Joshua Kimmich did his fair share to reignite the debate on whether he is better as a right-back or as a central midfielder. David Alaba again proved why his contract extension will be the Bayern board’s highest priority in the next few days, and, most surprisingly, Niklas Süle proved that he is still as good as he was before his injury.
Süle has played less than 1,000 minutes this season. After the corona break, he played just 86 minutes in the Champions League. The fact that he came on in the 25th minute in a final and brilliantly replaced Jerome Boateng may be the biggest individual win tonight.
And take a moment to appreciate what a phenomenal defender Boateng has been for Bayern. This is is second Treble for the club. We may have just seen his last performance for Bayern. He is a club legend and should be celebrated as one.
The Parisian son wins the game for Munich
Before the opening whistle, critics had identified PSG’s fullbacks as the weakest link in a somewhat unbalanced team. Juan Bernat and Thilo Kehrer were always going to struggle against Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman. It was no surprise that Bayern tried to expose this weakness from the very first minute. What was surprising was how good the Paris-born, former PSG talent Kingsley Coman was today. Granted, Thilo Kehrer is not the greatest right-back in the world, but Coman was the only Bayern player in the attacking four who regularly found space. His unpredictable dribbles, speed, and overall attacking creativity were on full display.
Born in the Moissy-Cramayel, a Satellite town south of Paris, Coman joined PSG when he was eight years old. After nine years at the club, Coman was pushed away. When Qatar took over football in Paris, they wanted to advance fast. They bought superstars and in turn, had no time to develop their own talents. Coman became PSG’s youngest player ever but saw how his potential would not be utilized at his home-town club. So, he left.
Today he destroyed their dream with a brilliant header.
Kingsley Coman has now won 20 trophies in 193 games.— SPORF (@Sporf) August 23, 2020
That's a trophy every 9.65 games in his club career.
He's only 24. pic.twitter.com/p02SVhd7Q8
Flick: the cherry on the cake of the best football institution on earth
Bayern Munich is the best team in the world as of tonight. Bayern’s squad cost almost half of Neymar’s transfer fee. Bayern has maintained their knack of doing great business and it will already be displayed next year, as the Bayern board has continued to buy great players for low (or no!) transfer fees. The players win on the pitch, but the board makes it possible.
But most of the credit this season should go to Hansi Flick. It is hard to imagine that eight of today’s starting eleven played against Liverpool at the Allianz Arena in March 2019. And that is not including Joshua Kimmich and Thomas Müller who were out for that game.
Words about Hansi Flick’s revolution almost feel superfluous at this point. But one thing is almost guaranteed: Bayern wouldn’t be here without him.
Champions of Europe! @FCBayern pic.twitter.com/gZ0WPjDZcx— Leon Goretzka (@leongoretzka_) August 23, 2020
Now, celebrate and enjoy this moment!!! MIA SAN MIA!