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PSG vs Bayern Munich: Five things we learned from another thrilling Champions League clash

Karl Matchett
·5-min read
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PSG are through to the semi-finals of the Champions League after holding off Bayern Munich in the last-eight second leg, losing 1-0 but progressing on away goals.

Kylian Mbappe had the first shot of the game, dragging an effort wide after a break down the right, but Bayern quickly imposed themselves on the match and enjoyed plenty of possession - but without creating too many openings.

Leroy Sane and Joshua Kimmich went close from range and Manuel Neuer had to deny Neymar from close range - all in the first half-hour. The Brazilian forward then struck the crossbar and the post in the space of three minutes for PSG - but Bayern went up the other end and took the lead, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting heading in against his former club from close range.

Neymar came within a whisker of tapping in an equaliser soon after the restart and the game became more tense after the hour mark, with PSG at that time ahead on away goals - while Mbappe smashed in a strike which was ruled out for offside. Bayern poured forward late on in search of a winner, but it was PSG who went closest with two more lightning counters as their first-leg goals proved pivotal.

Here are five things we learned from the second leg in Paris.

Playing out

Unafraid, confident, competent: Bayern might be one of the best attacking sides in Europe, but Paris were more than happy to play their own game here and play their way around the challenge.

Two or three first-half displays of avoiding the press and passing around the Bayern front line were nothing short of exhilarating: perfect off-the-ball movement, sharp first touches and the absolute trust on even the stand-in fringe players being capable of playing their part.

PSG were unquestionably the better on-the-ball team in terms of initial build-up play and creativity through movement in attack, despite Bayern’s long stretches of possession.

Part of that was due to the open spaces Bayern left in pushing players up, and on occasions PSG’s passing out from the back did cause one or two problems for themselves, but on the balance of the night it was a brave and ultimately viable route to progression.

Unheralded trio

Insofar as PSG have any midfield stars, rather than attackers, Marco Verratti is usually the go-to individual - and with good reason, given his talent and consistency.

But three of the support cast deserve huge credit on the night: Idrissa Gana Gueye, the midfield ball-winner; Leandro Paredes, who barely wasted a pass; and Danilo Pereira, forced into action once more at centre-back.

The latter made countless clearances in the early stages, won headers with regularity and got himself into good positions to make the block, in a role which he has vociferously insisted he doesn’t appreciate playing in this season.

Without that troika of unheralded names, there was no way PSG went through here.

(Nearly) Ney’s night

The Brazilian forward was irrepressible in the first half, leading the counter-attack when needed, winning free-kicks to relieve pressure and showing all his silky technique in the final third.

Three times he almost gave his side the lead, one effort saved and two finding the frame of the goal instead of the back of the net, before Bayern instead found the less-cultured, but more clinical, touch.

He was so often the instigator of PSG’s attacks, not just with his dribbles and step-overs but with a keen eye for a pass between defenders and a physical determination which is too often missing from his game for many onlookers’ liking.

If the first leg was about Mbappe taking centre stage, tonight’s occasion was Neymar’s - even if his name wasn’t on the scoresheet.

Bayern’s depth costs dearly

Injuries, Covid absences and untested youngsters on the bench - that might be the story of the night as far as Hansi Flick is concerned.

Niklas Sule, Corentin Tolisso, Robert Lewandowski, Serge Gnabry, Douglas Costa, Leon Goretzka, Marc Roca - all were missing, starters and sub options alike, and Bayern simply didn’t have enough alternatives when they needed to change the game.

The manager has sounded his thoughts on a lack of options, but it was almost certainly top scorer Lewandowski’s absence which was most keenly felt.

A few rebounds, bouncing balls in the box, half-hit shots and wayward headers all caused frustration to those in red; one or more might easily have been turned in had the lethal Pole been on hand.

Semi-final chances

Given they reached the final last year, PSG will fancy their chances of going all the way once more - though a mighty task still stands before them.

Manchester City will be favourites in their own second leg against Dortmund, but either way there will be firepower on show which can threaten this defence of Mauricio Pochettino’s.

It should be remembered that there is also still a domestic battle to take care of, with Lille leading and a four-way battle for the Ligue 1 title taking place, so attentions will be somewhat split.

But Pochettino has been brought in to inspire the best of those stars on the European scene; this time around they had enough to see off Bayern, leaving two more hurdles to clear.

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