Episode 5: Paris Saint-Germain 0-1 Bayern Munich
UEFA Champions League Final
August 23, 2020
Estadio da Luz, Lisbon
Lineup: Neuer — Kimmich, Boateng (Sule 26), Alaba, Davies — Goretzka, Thiago (Tolisso 87) — Gnabry (Coutinho 69), Muller, Coman (Perisic 69) — Lewandowski
Goal scorers: None/Coman 60’
This was it. The big one. After waiting for seven years, Bayern Munich were back in the Champions League final. Just one more win separated them from not only their sixth European Cup, but a historic second continental treble. Were Bayern up to the task? Judging from their route to the final, it certainly looked like they were. Not every club can single handedly destroy the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, and FC Barcelona in a single season. But could they take that one final step?
Opponents Paris Saint-Germain had an iffy tournament in Lisbon up until then. It took them two stoppage-time goals to squeeze past Atalanta in the quarterfinals, and although they dispatched RB Leipzig 3-0 in the semifinals, they were far from perfect. But they were motivated, they had a world class squad, and a world class coach. This would be their first ever Champions League should they win it, not to mention their first ever treble. It would make the billions spent on players finally worth something.
History was to be made no matter who won the title. Was it going to be red or blue in Lisbon?
Unlike their previous few games, Bayern were cautious in the opening stages. Naturally, perhaps, considering this was the final. That cautiousness let Paris have a few chances, particularly when Neymar had to be denied by two big saves from Manuel Neuer. Bayern weren’t too passive, though, as shown by Robert Lewandowski, who was denied by the woodwork. A big scare occurred on the stroke of halftime when Kylian Mbappe intercepted a stray pass from David Alaba, but the Frenchman fired straight at Neuer for the score to stay locked at zero.
Halftime came and went and the two teams were still keeping each other at bay. Little happened to please either side as an hour passed, but just then, Joshua Kimmich whipped in a sumptuous cross for an unmarked Kingsley Coman to head in at the far post. Bayern were ahead.
Paris upped their ante with a sense of urgency but two chances from Angel di Maria and Marquinhos were blocked by Neuer, who was outstanding on the night. The Bayern captain’s finest moments came in the dying minutes when he saved a point-blank range shot from Mbappe with his leg. Granted, Mbappe was offside anyway, but it was still a fine save.
And a few minutes later, the final whistle blew. Bayern Munich were the champions of Europe.
Why was this match special?
This game was another example of how Hansi Flick wanted his team to play. Yes, the pressing levels had gone down slightly, and the defensive line wasn’t as high as it used to be (which wasn’t saying too much), but the overall philosophy of play was the same, and it stayed the same for 90 minutes. Never once did Flick change his approach, instead instructing his players to just press Paris to the point that they couldn’t string a decent attack together. This was a prime example of playing to your strengths, and how that can pay off. Compare that to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, who abandoned their normal game plan for something completely different, and who got knocked out of the quarterfinals as a result.
Also, this game was obviously special because we won the Champions League, and a treble to boot. No further comment.
Bayern won the Champions League with eleven wins from eleven games, scoring 43 goals in the process. Never before had a team won the Champions League by winning every single one of their games. Bayern also became only the second ever team to win two trebles, and Flick became the first ever coach to win a treble after taking charge as an interim manager. On a side note, Neuer became the first captain to lift three trophies in three consecutive months; the Bundesliga in June, the DFB-Pokal in July, and the Champions League in August. Talk about making history.
Needless to say, the whole team partied all night, with highlights including Flick being tossed up into the air by his players multiple times, Javi Martinez manning the drums, and Lucas Hernandez wearing the trophy on his head like a rather heavy hat. It was a night to remember for everyone involved.