On Sunday, August 23, Bayern Munich defeated Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) 1-0 in the final of the Union of European Football Association’s (UEFA) Champions League, the largest annual tournament in the club soccer season, contested by 32 of the best teams from across Europe. This year, the season was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but on August 12 the competition resumed with the quarterfinals in Lisbon, Portugal. Fans of both teams anticipated a close, exciting final as both teams are full of world class players and had very successful seasons. PSG are led by Neymar Jr. and Kylian Mbappe, the two most expensive soccer players of all time. Their opponents, Bayern Munich, had won their past 21 games, including an 8-2 blowout of Barcelona in the quarterfinals that led to the firing of Barcelona’s coach and rumors that Lionel Messi could be leaving the club. Alessandro Tasso, a senior in Academic Choice (AC) and a centre back for Berkeley High School’s (BHS) soccer team, said that he “was expecting a higher scoring game,” for the final because the teams have “two of the best offenses in Europe.”
The game began with Bayern Munich using a high pressing style of play to keep the ball close to PSG’s goal, threatening to score on multiple occasions. Tasso said that he thought this strategy helped Bayern have “a really good game in terms of possession, they had something like 60 percent or 65 percent of all possession.”
However, it quickly became clear that both teams had attacking power, as Mbappe had a pair of attempts blocked by Bayern Munich defenders, and Neymar had a shot that was deflected by the outstretched foot of Bayern Munich’s goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. Felix Mousigian, a senior in Berkeley International High School (BIHS) and a PSG fan, bemoaned these misses as he says PSG could have won if they had “critical, clinical finishing,” but acknowledged that credit had to be given to Neuer, who “had a bunch of great saves,” and joked that, “his legs are so long they could probably extend the span of the goalposts.”
Bayern Munich’s first big chance came when Polish striker Robert Lewandowski hit the post at the 22 minute mark, narrowly missing what would have been his 56th goal in 47 games this season. A few minutes later, Lewandowski had another excellent opportunity, but his header was parried away by PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas. There was drama at the end of the first half when Bayern Munich winger Kingsley Coman went to ground with some contact from PSG defender Thilo Kehrer, but no penalty was called, despite shouts to the referee from the Bayern Munich players. Both Tasso and Mousigian agreed that it was close, but that the referee made the right decision.
Coman, who used to play in PSG’s youth system, was the star of the match, as he “energized the offense for Bayern,” according to Tasso. In the 59th minute, right-back Joshua Kimmich sent in a cross and found the 24-year-old, who easily headed it into the net. PSG tried to strike back, playing with more urgency, but instead of finding the goal they desperately needed to send the game into overtime, the frustration boiled over, with three PSG players receiving yellow cards in four minutes towards the end of the match.
Coman’s goal won Bayern their sixth Champions League title, and Bayern became the first team to keep a perfect record for the entire competition, winning all 11 of their games.