Women’s Champions League: FC Bayern 1-0 PSG

After warding off a swarm of attacks, one small sting in response did the trick. While Paris Saint-Germain dominated the ball and their opponents in the first leg of the Champions League quarter final, Bayern have a lead to take into the return game. Author: Jolle • Translator: Sam

The Reds did go into the match with some fight, and thanks to a great performance from Tinja-Riikka Korpela managed to keep a clean sheet and then score the only goal of the game.

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FC Bayern München - Paris Saint Germain, Frauen Champions League, Grundformationen#FCBPSG starting formations: 3-4-1-2/5-2-1-2 vs. 4-4-2

The worst had to be expected. In PSG, the opposition was a top European team packed with world-class players, and Bayern found themselves in the midst of a crisis. They had lost twice within one week against VfL Wolfsburg, going out of the cup and losing ground on the Champons League places. While long-term absentees like Sarah Romert and Viktoria Schnaderbeck returned to the squad, Bayern were missing experienced internationals like Nora Holstad, Simone Laudehr, Stefanie van der Gragt and Melanie Leopolz.

More than 7,000 people came to the Hermann-Gerland-Kampfbahn to support their team in the Champions League crunch match Bayern-PSG. Under the watchful eyes of Uli Hoeneß, Carlo Ancelotti and Hoffenheim’s ‘Coach of the Year 2016’ Julian Nagelsmann, the guests caused Bayern problems from minute one.

PSG pressed high, suffocated Bayern, played keep-ball and then swiftly won the ball back when they lost it. Bayern were just chasing shadows. The nerves were palpable. Too slow and hesitatnt, without confidence on the ball, Bayern gave away lots of easy passes and fell under heavy pressure. It was only a matter of time before PSG ended one of their waves of attacks with a goal. The first chance was had quickly by former Bayern playmaker Vero Boquete, but Korpela, in superb form from the very start, was equal to it, blocking the shot with her left foot.

FC Bayern München Frauen - Paris Saint-Germain, Champions League Viertelfinalhinspiel, Sara Däbritz, Vero Boquete, C: Sven Beyrich

A far-superior PSG despaired for the entire 90 minutes of Bayern’s self-sacrificing defensive work – as well as the stroke of luck that they lacked. Bayern, though, came bit by bit more and more into the game, increasingly facing the physicality of the opponents instead of shrinking back and shirking out of tackles. Because only the one who goes into challenges fully can also win them and get fouls. The Scandinavian officials let a lot go on both sides, which did a lot of good for the flow of the game. There were some yellow cards, but none of them significant.

3 things we noticed

1. Superb reflexes from Korpela frustrate PSG

Korpela too showed some nerves. She did save PSG captain Shirley Cruz’s long-range shot, but not by parrying it away from danger or holding onto it – it was instead almost a comedy assist for the onrushing Marie-Laure Delie. Delie skewered the ball over the cross-bar, while Korpela was still recovering from colliding with the post (8’).

Just like the whole team, Korpela didn’t allow her initial nerves to write the script for the rest of the evening. Time and time again, the PSG forwards combined like a swarm of bees and advanced into the Bayern penalty area. And time and time again, Korpela narrowed the angle, plucked free-kicks out of the air, swept up shots in her arms, stuck her hands in the air lightning-fast while falling, and thwarted one star after the other.

Even when Cruz was released wonderfully by Cristiane on the counter, running at full pelt into the area from the left hand side, a wall of neon yellow loomed before her and simply did not allow Bayern’s hard defensive work to be undone. Korpela saved that one too – and umpteen more followed.

She kept her team in the game. She could have hardly chosen a better night for this utterly unbelievable performance.

2. PSG – or: how creative a 4-4-2 can be

These days, in the men’s Bundesliga the 4-4-2 is seen as the least innovative of formations. In two tight banks of four in front of the goalkeeper, you can defend whatever the opponent throws at you over the entire width of the pitch. At the same time, your two central-midfielders can cut out counter attacks, and you have the luxury of playing with two strikers and being able to set two wingers free down the flanks, without taking too much risk with having four players back to protect the goalkeeper.

PSG also played offensively and defensively in a 4-4-2. But only at times did we see the opponent waiting in their penalty area, and the usual division of roles in the attacking movement. Defensively the system offered few surprises. Cristiane and Delie put pressure on Bayern’s first line, but mostly let the passes through to the next line. PSG’s midfield then defended so physically present, neatly and tidily in space, that Bayern barely had any space or time left on the ball. As such, PSG’s defence only came under a few moments of rare pressure.

In attack, PSG above all surprised with their roles in midfield. Captain Shirley Cruz played, officially, on the left flank. But while her fellow winger Lawrence on the right was responsible for bombing up and down the wing to add some speed to the game, making life difficult for Verena Faißt in particularly, linking up with full-back Georges and striker Delie, Cruz constantly drifted into a central position as a playmaker. As a number 10 cutting in from wide, Cruz ended up all over the pitch. At one point she was the deepest central midfielder, before soon showing how dangerous she can be going forward with some quick one-twos in advanced areas. Geyoro balanced out Cruz’s movements, and kept the defensive-midfield area secure with unbelievable physicality, allowing Boquete a similar amount of freedom to that which Cruz enjoyed in the ten zone.

Bayern outnumbering PSG’s strikers with three at the back, as well as the physically and technically strong midfield five – eight against six, then – was a real shield against PSG’s quality, who still hardly let that stop them. Because PSG, in Boquete, Cruz and Cristiano, basically had three playmakers who could make and score goals. And yet Bayern couldn’t just focus on shutting down the centre of the pitch, because on their left side they had to cope with the running strength of Lawrence, Georges and Delie.

PSG can go home wondering how exactly they ended the game goalless.

3. Bayern with the luck of the brave

Ok, Bayern were heavily inferior for long stretches of play. Ok, Bayern didn’t play their best football in the first twenty minutes, as if they were paralysed. And ok, they were dominated by PSG and forced into mistakes. But. They resisted. Like in the old days, they were the underdogs. Collectively they cancelled out their individual mistakes. They didn’t give up. They didn’t just accept defeat. And when the ball fell to the opposition for the hundredth time and all players who had been moving forward had to run back for their lives and work backwards again – they did it. And the longer it stood at 0-0, the more frustrated PSG got.

Wörle had also given the team a few tricks up their sleeves. During less chaotic periods, there were very clear marking instructions. He also put as much fearlessness and resolve in the squad as he had at his disposal. Since Lewandowski has needed to help out in central defence, Katharina Baunach has been switching between the left and right full-back positions, depending on the need. This time she lined up next to Melanie Behringer in midfield, closing off the centre of the park, showing courage and passing skills to make sure that Bayern also put a few attacks together. With Baunach in defensive midfield, the previously injured Maier could be integrated into the game on the right, with Behringer in a more offensive position, at number ten behind the two strikers, working to keep the ball away from her own goal while pressing and then becoming more attack-minded when the opportunity presented itself.

The whole team contributed to the success according to their strengths. Maier, thanks to Baunach, was able to restrict Cruz’s space, Faißt gave everything against Lawrence and Delie and was then replaced by the fresh Lisa Evans before she began to tire. Rolser slogged away hard, from the left of central midfield to the right flank, where she put in a great cross in front of goal. The calm with which Caroline Abbé headed away lofted balls from the area, courageously pushed forwards, and had the presence of mind with which to not boot a bouncing ball in her five-yard box against somebody else’s shin, but rather to block Cruz smartly at her back to allow Behringer to clear, was absolutely fantastic. Unbelievable that she was able to produce this experienced performance having not had much opportunity to play a role over long periods of the season. Now she was needed – and there she was.

Bayern, with this collective performance of willpower, braced themselves against PSG and against the possibility of being limited to their own eighteen-yard box. Even late in the game they tried bravely to go forward. Miedema had hardly seen the ball for long stretches of play, and despite that she kept her position and continued making runs – until it paid off. A PSG mistake in the build-up. Cleverly and bravely, Däbritz attacks the area and goes past Delannoy, squares the ball to Miedema, and what the Dutch goal machine does is just world class. How many other strikers would have wildly smashed the ball over the cross-bar, or straight at the goalkeeper. But Miedema takes a look at the defenders, the goalkeepers and the right corner, shifts the ball onto her weaker left foot, and without much power, instead choosing to place it, she sends an unsaveable shot into the bottom-right corner to win the game (72′).

Whether Bayern can manage another such performance away from home in the Parc de Princes is questionable. More than that. But their starting point is excellent. PSG are under pressure. A draw would be enough. And should Bayern score… any goal scored away from home would count for an extra goal.

Maybe there is a chance in Paris next week. The team worked hard for that chance. And they’ll give everything to take it.

FC Bayern München Frauen - Paris Saint-Germain, Champions League Viertelfinalhinspiel, C: Sven Beyrich

FC Bayern – Paris Saint-Germain 1-0
BayernKorpela – Lewandowski, Wenninger, Abbé – Faißt, Behringer, Baunach, Maier – Däbritz – Rolser, Miedema
BenchZinsberger, Romert, Schnaderbeck, Slipčević,
ParisKiedrzynek – Perisset, Paredes, Delannoy, Georges – Cruz, Geyoro, Boquete (60. Diallo), Lawrence – Cristiane, Delie
BenchGeurts, Palacin, Lahmari, Morroni, Cissoko, Formiga
Goals1-0 Miedema (72.)
CardsYellow: Behringer (33.), Baunach (73.), Lotzen (90+3.) / Geyoro (26.), Cruz (32.), Paredes (83.)
Match officialsPernilla Larsson (Sweden), Julia Magnusson (Sweden), Annica Johansson (Sweden), Lina Lehtovaara (Finland)
Attendance7,300

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