Bayern Hold On To Win In Paris
Julian Nagelsmann made a few changes from the team that beat Bochum at the weekend with Joshua Kimmich replacing Thomas Müller and Kingsley Coman coming in for Serge Gnabry. Yann Sommer started in goal with Benjamin Pavard, Matthijs de Ligt and João Cancelo in defense. Leon Goretzka started next to Kimmich in midfield with Leroy Sané, Jamal Musiala and Coman playing just behind Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting in attack.
Bayern would start the match completely controlling the first half of play. PSG played deep and only on a few occasions were able to actually make any headway into the Bayern half.
However, Bayern were unable to make much headway themselves in front of goal with only two of their ten shots finding their way on target and neither of those causing much danger to Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Julian Nagelsmann brought on Alphonso Davies to start the second half to replace Cancelo, which paid dividends quickly as Davies was the player who put in a very nice cross to Coman who took the ball on the volly and side footed it under Donnarumma to give Bayern the 0-1 lead (53).
PSG brought on Mbappe in the 57th minute which changed the complexion of the game. Things opened up completely as both teams had far more chances than in the opening 55 minutes.
The last 15 minutes started to see PSG gain more momentum as they had two goals ruled offsides and increasingly put pressure on the Bayern defense. This ultimately put Pavard in a position to pick up a second yellow card on the night leaving Bayern with 10 men for the final minutes, which they managed to close out without further incident setting up an exciting return leg in Munich.
This is the most apt description of the first half of play from Bayern that I can think of. They literally controlled every level of the game.
The passing was crisp and focused today for the first time since the break. They were composed and unafraid of their opponents. The ball moved around the box with ease.
Defensively, when they were called into action, they didn’t panic and put themselves in position to make the necissary interventions. It was as good a half as we’ve seen from Bayern for quite some time. Apart from one aspect.
As good as Bayern was in every other aspect of the game, they were dreadful at creating actual scoring opportunities.
Nothing moved through the middle. The dreaded U was in full show for most the first half as Bayern maintained possession easily but failed to do more than cross the ball into a heavily defended box or attempt long range efforts with little hope of scoring.
People talk a lot Choupo in these types of situations and whether Lewandowski would have had a different affect. The truth is that while maybe he would be a bit of a better target man in the box, I don’t think anything else likely would have changed.
Bayern often struggle to breakdown teams who clog up the middle of the pitch and have done so dating well past this current season. It’s times like this where we have often needed Musiala or Gnabry or Sadio Mané to come in and do something special.
It’s unlikely that PSG will play anywhere near as compact in Munich for the return leg, but this is still a problem that need rectifying. Gnabry’s form inparticular is starting to become extremely worrying. Nagelsmann needs to find a way to get the mercurial winger back to his best sooner rather than later if Bayern are going to compete on all fronts this season.
After the unusual showing from PSG in the first half, the introduction of Mbappe completely changed the momentum and structure of the match.
Given that Messi and Neymar were on the pitch for that first half, it’s a little surprising just how conservative they were and how ineffective they were going forward.
Mbappe clearly is the linchpin at this point providing the speed and creativity that was lacking prior to his introduction.
Bayern meanwhile will have to find a way to combat this attack and Mbappe’s speed in the return leg. Pavard played a pretty solid match tonight prior to his sending off, but obviously will be without him in Munich.
Cancelo had a quite match prior to his halftime substitution. Assuming he’s not injured, the obvious starting 11 will likely include Cancelo, de Ligt, Upamecano and Davies in defense. This will provide more speed on the outside but also more danger as Cancelo and Davies will certainly be further up the pitch than Pavard was.
If the last half hour was anything to judge by though, we’re in for one hell of match in the return leg.