PSG defeats Bayern Munich in Champions League

Despite losing in the second leg, PSG narrowly advanced to the semifinal on tie-breaker


PSG forward Kylian Mbappe raises his arms in victory after the win.

Charles Horn, Staff Writer

The fatigued stars of defending Champions League winners Bayern Munich sunk to the pitch in the cavernous Parc des Princes stadium as Paris Saint Germain inched one step closer to their Sisyphean goal of capturing European soccer’s top prize with a narrow victory via the away goals tiebreaker in a two-legged affair that ended 3-3.

Bayern were left ruing the absence of their star striker Robert Lewandowski and the dynamic winger Serge Gnabry, who missed the fixture with a knee injury and a positive COVID-19 test, respectively. The duo was instrumental in delivering the coveted title to Bayern last season.

Last year’s final was a tactical encounter, devoid of much of the attacking brilliance that had been eagerly anticipated by the millions of viewers of the biggest game on the club soccer calendar. This year’s quarterfinal delivered all the awaited action and more, with shots aplenty and drama until the final whistle.

In the first leg, the April Munich snow did little to cool the sizzling spectacle that unfolded in the Allianz Arena, as Bayern Munich and Paris Saint Germain met in a quarterfinal rematch of last year’s Champions League final.

PSG’s star duo — consisting of the two most expensive players in history in Neymar and Kylian Mbappe — provided continuous entertainment, weaving between the Bayern defense and combining artfully.

Bayern clearly missed the clinical finishing ability of Lewandowski, recording 31 shots and 12 on target, but only putting two past the heroic Kaylor Navas. The Costa Rican goalkeeper solidified a porous PSG defense, allowing the free-flowing attacking lineup to take full advantage of Bayern’s high defensive line.

Mbappe continued his dominant run in the Champions League this season.  He scored twice, including the winner and pivotal third away goal in the 68th minute to win the first leg 3-2.

In the second leg, Bayern knew they had to score twice to keep their title defense alive, but an injury to Leon Goretzka further limited their attacking abilities. The first 25 minutes were a largely tepid affair, with PSG clearly the more dangerous of the two sides.

The defining battle of the first half was that between Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and Neymar. Neymar danced and dominated throughout the first half, consistently breaking through to either set up Mbappe or to shoot himself. But time and time again, Neuer denied the dynamic Brazilian, with both post and crossbar filling in when his outstanding reflexes could not.

But, just seconds after a second Neymar effort that bounced harmlessly off the post, Bayern found the back of the net. A David Alaba shot forced a diving Kaylor Navas save that looped upwards before falling and meeting the head of former PSG player Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, who forced the ball into the PSG net. The goal, just minutes before half, brought Bayern within one goal of winning the tie, setting up a second half full of intrigue and drama.

Neymar’s brilliance continued after the break as he floated around the pitch and popped wherever the ball happened to land. His expertly placed through ball was denied by the marauding Neuer with a trademark charging clearance from outside his box. Just moments later, Angel Di Maria squared it to Neymar who was just inches away from scoring, continuing a dominant but frustrating evening for the PSG star who ran the show but failed to find the back of the net. 

For a moment, it looked like Mbappe had won the tie after Neymar’s through ball set the young Frenchman through on goal before powering the ball past Neuer. But, Mbappe had strayed just inches offside, and the assistant’s raised flag denied PSG victorious gratification.

Bayern ratcheted up the offensive pressure but failed to register a single shot between the 60th and 80th minutes.

Sane nearly put the Bavarians ahead after turning the substitute Mitchel Bakker inside out and putting a rolling pass across the face of the goal that demanded a scoring touch that never came. Sane’s decision making in the final third was frustrating to Bayern fans, as he continually misplayed the final pass, including on a late ball that should’ve found the rushing Jamal Musiala, but instead rolled into Navas’ gloves.

Without Lewandowski, Bayern turned to Spanish defensive-midfielder Javi Martinez to play center forward in the hope of a late header, but it was ultimately not enough, and the defending champions were felled by the team they had dispatched in last season’s final.

PSG awaits Manchester City,  who advanced over Borussia Dortmund with an aggregate score of 4-2. On the other side of the bracket, Chelsea dispatched Porto 2-1 while Real Madrid moved on with a 3-1 aggregate over Liverpool.

With the defending champions dispatched, PSG inherits the position of second-favorites behind their semifinal opponent Manchester City, making their Qatari ownership and supporters’ longstanding dream of European glory ever the more possible.