Longest season ends with Bayern beating PSG for 6th Euro Cup
LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Breaking the silence beating a drum, his Bayern Munich jersey replaced by a “Champions of Europe” T-shirt, Joshua Kimmich wanted to savor the scene of glory.
Two hours after setting up the goal that secured Bayern’s sixth European Cup, Kimmich emerged from the tunnel to walk back onto the empty confetti-covered pitch where his team had beaten Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 on Sunday night.
Soon he was joined, sitting in the center circle, by David Alaba, the winners’ medal around his bare chest, and Serge Gnabry in a Bayern hat, swigging from a bottle.
Before long the lights went out on the Stadium of Light.
In the near-darkness of the Lisbon stadium, the players remained in celebration and contemplation.
“When you win a title like this with brothers on the pitch,” Kimmich had said shortly after the full-time whistle, “that’s the maximum you can ask for.”
On a continent where more than 200,000 have died from the coronavirus, the longest and most disrupted of peacetime men’s European football seasons ended in emptiness and near silence.
Just as it was for so much of a first Champions League final played without fans.
Only a few hundred people were allowed into the Benfica stadium, because of pandemic restrictions, to see PSG academy graduate Kingsley Coman head in the winner from Kimmich’s cross in the 59th minute.
While Bayern won its first continental final since 2013, PSG has yet to lift the European Cup despite more than $1 billion being spent on players in the nine years under Qatari ownership.
More than $500 million was spent on Neymar, Kylian Mbappé and Angel Di Maria, but PSG looked far from formidable or threatening against the Bavarian club that was more assured than the first-time European Cup finalists.
As the front three were frustrated in front of goal, it was instead a left winger who plays in Neymar’s position, was born in Paris and started his career at PSG, who inflicted the blow.
It was Gnabry attacking down the right that unpicked the PSG defense before passing to Thomas Müller. The forward deftly clipped the ball back to Kimmich, who spotted Coman running unchecked into the penalty area.
The Frenchman netted a 43rd goal of a perfect European campaign that has seen Bayern become the first team to win all 11 Champions League matches.
“I feel a lot of joy, but also sadness for PSG,” said Coman, who left his boyhood club in 2014 — first for Juventus — after feeling undervalued. “It hurts my heart a bit.”
The win capped an incredible transformation this season under Hansi Flick, who emerged from the shadows in November, with a promotion to the top coaching job with Bayern fourth in the Bundesliga.
“I remember in November the papers wrote that no one fears this Bayern team anymore, that no one respects it and how bad they are,” Flick said. “I think the growth they underwent is sensational.”
The European Cup will join the Bundesliga trophy -- won for an eighth successive season — and the German Cup at Bayern.
“We all know where we’ve come from this season,” Müller said. “There are no secrets, we just kept moving forward. Obviously we have a lot of quality in the team, but we also have the spirit. The boys are prepared to suffer. ”
The season is now over -- three months later than planned — with Bayern a treble winner just as it was in 2013.
Bayern joins deposed champion Liverpool as six-time champions of Europe, only behind AC Milan (seven) and Real Madrid (13). It was the first final to end 1-0 since Real Madrid beat Juventus in 1998 which was also the last final to feature teams who qualified as domestic champions.
“I don’t know when that party will end,” Flick said.
A night when PSG fans hoped to party on the Champs-Élysées ended with dozens clashing with French riot police. Back in Lisbon, when the final whistle blew, Neymar was in tears, embraced by rival Alaba.
“We weren’t clinical enough,” PSG coach Thomas Tuchel said. “We want Kylian and Ney to always score, but you can’t ask for that.”
PSG’s footballing superstars were subdued at a final which lacked usual pre-match entertainment from pop stars.
Not that PSG lacked chances to take the lead at a final that should have been played in Istanbul in May, rather than the Portuguese capital in late August when seasons usually begin not end.
Only the presence of “Istanbul” on the match ball that Neymar struck at Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer in the 18th was a reminder here of the pandemic-enforced change of location.
Neymar did spark the move that saw Ander Herrera and Di Maria combine but the Argentine could only strike over. And an interchange between Herrera and Mbappé before halftime ended with a weak shot from the French forward.
It was a downbeat way to end a season that saw PSG sweep a fourth domestic treble in six seasons that underlines why it is on Europe’s biggest stage where the team now has to prove its quality.
“We need to once again build another strong, powerful side that can really kick on and continue this run,” Tuchel said. “That will be the challenge to try and rediscover this spirit.”
PSG did manage to prevent Robert Lewandowski claiming a 56th goal of the season. For once his scoring contribution was not needed as this season like no other ended with a 21st successive win for Bayern as part of a 30-game unbeaten run.
“When you think how we worked defensively until the 92nd minute — Lewandowski was chasing after the ball, that was incredible,” Flick said. “It was a complete team performance.”
From the front to the back, as the 19-year-old Alphonso Davies became the youngest defender to win the Champions League.
“Who would ever have thought a guy from Canada would win the Champions League? Davies said. “Two years ago, if someone had told me this, I never would have believed it. Dreams do come true.”
PSG, with its “Dream Bigger” motto, will hope they do, eventually in the Champions League.
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