Bayern Munich beats Lyon and will face PSG in Champions League Final
By Rory Smith
Bayern Munich’s numbers, Lyon manager Rudi Garcia had said, were so intimidating that they were best ignored. Unbeaten since early December. Flawless, with not so much as a point dropped, in 19 consecutive games. Scoring goals at an eye-watering rate.
“If we just look at the statistics,” Garcia had said before Lyon faced Bayern in the Champions League semifinal Wednesday night in Lisbon, Portugal, “we might as well watch the game in the hotel.”
Lyon could not, in the end, stop Bayern’s big red machine from rolling on to its first Champions League final since winning the competition in 2013. Two goals from Serge Gnabry — the first a bone-shaking finish from the edge of the penalty area, the second a scrappy tap-in — effectively settled the game before halftime. Robert Lewandowski, scoring his 55th goal of the season and his 15th in this season’s Champions League, added a third on a header in the 88th minute.
Lyon was hardly a passive observer to the proceedings, though. This was no meek surrender, as RB Leipzig’s defeat to Paris St.-Germain by the same scoreline Tuesday night had been. Twice, Lyon came close to taking the lead before Gnabry opened the scoring. In the second half, when most would have considered its chance blown, Lyon continued to push forward, searching for the slice of good fortune that might have brought its players a lifeline.
PSG, certainly, will have seen enough from Lyon to believe that Bayern might be more vulnerable in Sunday’s final than Wednesday’s final score suggested: the pace of Kylian Mbappé, the craft of Neymar and the endeavor of Ángel Di María should trouble a Bayern defensive line that struggled to contain Karl Toko Ekambi and Memphis Depay.
The trouble, for PSG and everyone else, is what Bayern offers at the other end of the field. Lewandowski is the headline threat, but the German champion bristles with threats across the board. Gnabry was the star Wednesday, his dazzling run and fearsome finish shattering Lyon’s hearts after a bright start. But there were worthy contributions from Lewandowski — scoring in his 10th straight Champions League game and now only two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo’s record of 17 in a single campaign — but also from Leon Goretzka, Alphonso Davies and Thiago Alcantara.
The experience that Bayern’s manager, Hansi Flick, can call on may lend an edge, too. In Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller, Jérôme Boateng and David Alaba, Bayern has four survivors of its victory over Borussia Dortmund in the 2013 final. Five, actually, if one includes Lewandowski, who was in Dortmund’s yellow and black that night.
PSG, of course, has never reached the final before this season, though several of its players have. Di María won the tournament in 2014 with Real Madrid, and Neymar lifted the trophy a year later with Barcelona. They and Mbappé will not plan to be passive observers and will believe they can have a rather better outcome than Lyon did.