Eliot K. Raman Jones | Sports Editor
Bayern Munich edged out Paris Saint-Germain in a cagey Champions League Final on Sunday night in Lisbon to win their sixth CL title.
With 22 potential difference-makers on the pitch, it was simply too perfect that the player who would seal Bayern’s European title would be one who started his career at PSG. Kingsley Coman’s opportunistic header from Joshua Kimmich’s chipped cross in the 59th minute broke the deadlock that had, at times, looked like it could have lasted the full match. It was a neat finish from the Frenchman, who despite a Man of the Match performance in the biggest game of his career so far, looks set to have his place in Bayern’s starting eleven next season supplanted by new signing Leroy Sané.
The result flattered the Bavarian side, as PSG did have their chances to score, as the world’s most expensive player Neymar forced two good saves from Manuel Neuer, and World Cup-winning starlet Kylian Mbappe missed a gilt-edged opportunity from the edge of the box. In the same fixture in which he was named Man of the Match in 2014, Angel di Maria looked far from his best, blazing a shot high over the bar when put through by Ander Herrera. PSG fans may also feel aggrieved that there were two penalty shouts in the second half which were bizarrely overlooked by both the referee and the video-assistant referee (VAR). Neymar and Mbappe appeared to wilt under the Lisbon floodlights, and as the game eked onwards, Neymar was more often seen going through his trademark histrionics than he was seen in promising attacking positions.
Bayern, who came into Sunday’s final having beaten 2014-15 CL Champions Barcelona 8-2, had to show considerably more grit against PSG than the attacking flair they had on display in their previous fixture. PSG had set up tactically in order to nullify Bayern’s pace on the wings, and were content to let the Bavarians have the lion’s share of the possession, as long as they were unable to create anything with it. Before the goal midway through the second half, the Bundesliga champions were limited to a handful of chances, two of which came to Polish hitman Robert Lewandowski, but the talismanic striker, top scorer in the Champions League, Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal this season, was unable to convert either, hitting the post with his first effort and forcing a fine save from Keylor Navas with his second. While it was expected that he would be Bayern’s key difference-maker before the match, for the most part he was unable to escape the ministrations of Marquinhos, who worked hard throughout, both in defence to smother Lewandowski’s chances, and in attack where he almost scored twice for the French champions.
Winning the Champions League caps off a fantastic season for Bayern Munich, and an especially remarkable managerial achievement for Hans-Dieter “Hansi” Flick. The ex-Bayern player and former Germany coach joined the club in November when Bayern were adrift of the Bundesliga summit in fourth, and managed to guide them to a treble few fans could have predicted when he was first appointed. Bayern’s ruthless efficiency under Flick has garnered many plaudits, and with their win over PSG they became the first side to win the Champions League without losing a single game en route to the title. Flick’s massive success comes despite his relative inexperience – Bayern is the first club he’s managed in Germany’s top flight. Flick’s transformation of Germany’s most successful team over the course of almost a year from an imperilled side meandering aimlessly from disappointment to disappointment to ruthless Treble winners has demonstrated Flick’s managerial nous, and all eyes will be on Munich next season to see if the German is able to live up to the hype his success has created.