In the end, Neymar failed to hold back his tears. After seasons of heartbreaks, the Brazilian and his fellow Parisian superstars had finally reached the cusp of the Holy Grail, the one with the big ears; in other words, the Champions League trophy, however, they were tactically outplayed in the final by Bayern Munich which really is the most complete team in club football right now.
It was a case of too near, yet too far for the French champions playing their maiden Champions League final.
PSG’s star-studded team, which also included the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria, would have fancied their chances of scoring in this enthralling match-up given the highly-attractive but risky attacking football that the German champions had played till this point.
Though they had not let in too many goals at the back, it was deemed to be a failure of their opponents’ lack of cutting edge and the great rhythm that the German champions were in.
PSG, who were playing in great tandem themselves having dismantled RB Leipzig 3-0 in the semi-final, would have expected to have enough firepower in their ranks to get behind the overlapping Bayern Munich full-backs Joshua Kimmich and Alphonso Davies – both skilful and talented players with a penchant for bursting forward – and putting the central defensive pairing of Die Roten under pressure.
They did manage to do so infrequently, especially in the first half, but were prodigal in front of goal with Neymar and Mbappe both having their shots saved by the magnificent Manuel Neuer.
Both star forwards would feel they should have done better. Di Maria also got a gilt-edged opportunity but blasted it over.
Bayern Munich restrategise
It was in the second-half that Hans-Dieter Flick, the mastermind who has spearheaded a remarkable revolution in Munich, showed his great tactical nous in eking out the win.
It wasn’t as if Bayern Munich had not created chances in the first half, with ace marksman Robert Lewandowski coming close on two occasions, but PSG had marginally been the better side in the opening exchanges.
Bayern Munich’s much-vaunted attacking play had not really come to life in a nervy game, with Serge Gnabry, Alphonso Davies, Kingsley Coman on the wings or even Thomas Muller, from a more central position, failing to assert themselves in the way they would have liked.
But Coman’s inclusion, in place of the in-form Ivan Perisic as the left -attacker was a masterstroke in itself.
Though he had made one or two incisive runs down the channel, it was his pace that made the difference as he got onto the end of a Joshua Kimmich cross to expertly guide it to the far corner with his head past Navas.
It is then that the real strategic change took place. Bayern Munich, who had till this point of the tournament, used their breathtaking high-press to create chances, used it like a machine to close down any kind of passing rhythm that PSG tried to engender.
Even bringing on Marco Verratti to find their passing game going from deep failed, as Thomas Tuchel’s boys were hounded high up the pitch by Thiago, Thomas Muller and Leon Goretzka, with even Lewandowski joining the act.
Neymar was frequently left frustrated as the men in red shirts routinely closed down on him to deny the opportunity to unleash his trickery. Flick’s men did again play the high line they are accustomed to but seemed to have moved back a little to become a more efficient defensive unit.
The entrance of Niklas Sule, substituting the injured Jerome Boateng, also worked wonders as he was extremely tight at the back, giving the Parisians no room for manoeuvre.
Manuel Neuer and Thiago, emerge as stars
In this new, defensively efficient Bayern Munich, Manuel Neuer was at his imperious best. Some feel the 34-year-old is past his world-beating best, but he proved his critics wrong at the biggest stage.
Saving with his feet and hands, making himself big when it mattered and playing the sweeper-keeper’s role to perfection, Neuer snuffed out all the chances PSG did manage to create.
Thiago, deployed as a deep-lying midfielder, had a stellar game as well. He dictated play with his passing, playing his part in the goal while being responsible for the defensive organisation.
In essence, Bayern Munich demonstrated in the 1-0 win that they are a three-dimensional outfit, capable of adapting to the circumstances.
Time to contemplate for PSG
It is back to the drawing boards for Paris Saint-Germain after what has been a successful tournament till the final. PSG did create a few half-chances in the second half but Marquinos and quarter-final hero Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting failed to make the best of them.
Reports have emerged from Paris that carnage has broken out in the city with more than 140 people arrested following riots in the French capital by discontented fans.
This brewing discontent among the vociferous Paris faithful will be a cause for concern for both the team and the management. It seems the club, which has spent a fortune in building a team whose only aim is to win this trophy, has fallen short once again despite coming close.
Thomas Tuchel might have grown in leaps and bounds as a team this season, but they will have to come back and do it again next season.