One game from glory for Bayern Munich, a game too far for Lyon. The Germans may well be the best team in Europe, but they didn’t really need to show it against a team that just didn’t have one more upset in them. It made for a somewhat predictable 3-0 win, and also a somewhat predictable final. For all the strangeness of this season, and the number of potential new champions in this last eight, it is still a final battle between two super-clubs. It is also a match of fittingly grander dimensions, given it is a meeting between the new money of a state project in Paris Saint-Germain, and the vintage old money of Bayern. The Germans have their own Qatari links with sponsorship, but still remain defined by their vintage qualities. Their Champions League record speaks to that.
This will be their 11th final, as they hope for a sixth trophy, to go level with Liverpool and ahead of Barcelona.
They are ready to rise to that level. As to who will make this season their own, many have been looking to Neymar, Robert Lewandowski and Kylian Mbappe, having previously anticipated Leo Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, but it yet be that Serge Gnabry rises above them all. That was certainly the case in this match.
He effectively won it. He was that good, scoring his eighth and ninth goals in nine games of this Champions League campaign.
The first in this match was spectacular, and decisive, suggesting a special player on form.
He and Bayern just had too much for Lyon. It was one effort too much for Rudi Garcia’s side, after the sensational wins over both Juventus and Manchester City.
Lyon can thereby take great pride in this campaign, and yet may also lament what might have been.
There were 18 minutes of this match when they looked brilliant, assertive, and like another major upset was possible.
It could still be a lesson in how Paris Saint-Germain can get at Bayern.
It was certainly a brutal lesson in taking your chances.
Especially chances this good. Bayern again looked extremely susceptible to pace, which isn’t exactly ideal when you’re about to take on Mbappe and that PSG attack. Lyon created enough problems.
Memphis Depay scared them from the off, scorching through the Bayern half, before taking himself too far wide and pulling his shot wide of Manuel Neuer’s goal. Jerome Boateng then had to be at full stretch to block a dangerous Leo Debois ball, before Karl Toko Ekambi squandered the chance of the game for Lyon - and maybe the chance of a lifetime.
It was all the more frustrating because of how good he’d been to get himself into the position.
It was all more painful because of what followed. The forward so visibly had Bayern’s defenders on edge as he supremely weaved his way into the box, turning this way and that to almost test their nerves. Having finally worked his way into position, Ekambi let fly. It just wasn’t that clean, and wasn’t that clinical. The ball bounced off the post and then back off him and out.
The tantalising, somewhat fractious nature of the entire move was in such contrast to the utter force of what followed. The ball was immediately played to Gnabry on the right, who cut inside, and just hammered the ball into the top corner.
There was no hesitation there, no doubt. It was just a player on top of his game, to such a level that almost everything starts falling for him. That was certainly the case with his second. With Bayern by then in full control, Ivan Perisic unleashed the most powerful drilled cross. Anthony Lopes again showed exceptional reactions to keep out Lewandowski’s instinctive finish, only for the ball to arrive at Gnabry’s feet.
He finished to also finish the game.
Lyon did still have chances after that, and did still raise potential problems for Bayern, but it always felt like they were at arm’s length. That was certainly true for Neuer, who is just another player in the German side that looks back to his best.
You can really take your pick from a host of them, though, from the goalkeeper to Boateng to David Alaba to Thiago Alcantara to Lewandowski. The striker of course got his goal, a typically towering header that symbolised the stature of this side.
It all adds up to something close to a complete team. They have one big flaw, yes, but so many strengths. It might just make them the best team in Europe.
They have one game left to prove it.
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