PSG withstand Bayern barrage to dethrone Champions League holders

Could this be the season when PSG, who have so often fallen short due to nerves and pressure, and who lost the final to Bayern only last year, finally do it?
PSG withstand Bayern barrage to dethrone Champions League holders

Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe and Idrissa Gueye celebrate. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

PSG 0 Bayern Munich 1 (3-3 on aggregate, PSG win on away goals)

Paris St Germain’s dream of winning the Champions League for the first time, a dream which has cost successive managers their jobs, is now back in focus after they completed a nerve-wracking but hugely impressive quarter-final victory over Bayern Munich on away goals.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side, which won so spectacularly 3-2 in Germany in the first leg, held out in another high-class game despite losing 1-0 to a goal from Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting - and showed hidden depths we once doubted were there.

The skills of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, and Angel Di Maria lit up the Paris night as so often before, but this time it was also the passion, determination, and calmness of the likes of Idrissa Gueye, Colin Dagba, and Leandro Paredes which allowed them to hold out against another Bayern barrage.

Could this be the season when PSG, who have so often fallen short due to nerves and pressure, and who lost the final to Bayern only last year, finally do it?

They will now play Manchester City or Borussia Dortmund in the semi-final and there is a growing sense that this is, finally, their year.

As for Bayern, who didn’t deserve to lose the first tie and who played well again in Paris despite so many players missing through injury, the inquest could nevertheless be painful.

The pressure was high for this much-anticipated tie and both managers knew that an awful lot was riding on it.

For Pochettino, only recently arrived in Paris following the surprise sacking of Thomas Tuchel who took the team to the Champions League final last season, it was about knowing that people would be passing judgement on the job he has done so far.

Noises from inside the camp have been good, with players quick to praise his calming and uniting influence. But PSG are surprisingly sitting second in Ligue 1, three points behind Lille, and Tuchel was a popular figure amongst the Parisian fan base. So, this victory is a huge boost for his project.

For counterpart Hansi Flick, the situation is more political and now more perilous. His record at Bayern has been outstanding, having won absolutely everything, including the Champions League, inside two years – and with an 82 per cent winning record so far. But tension behind the scenes in Munich, and in particular with sporting director Hasan Salihamidžić in a row over recruitment, has left his future uncertain.

Add in a dip in defensive performance this season and rumours that he is a candidate to take over as manager of Germany, and you can only imagine the pressure he is soon to experience.

It was hardly surprising, then, that both sides showed signs of nerves in the early stages in Paris, which saw Mbappe fail to take an early chance when he shot narrowly wide from the right of the area.

But the game soon turned into the attacking feast we all enjoyed so much in the first leg, lit up by the skill of Neymar and Mbappe in particular.

Leroy Sane and Joshua Kimmich both fired narrowly wide before PSG served up a feast of counter-attacking football which came close to breaking their rivals.

Bayern needed Manuel Neuer to deny the outstanding Neymar twice and the Brazilian then produced a stunning piece of magic on the edge of the area after 37 minutes before curling an effort against the bar.

The same player struck the post following another lightning break, but you can never rule Bayern out.

Such is their reputation for finding the net that neutrals were totally split on who would go through this tie, despite PSG’s three away goals; and that tells you everything about their attitude.

It showed after 41 minutes when Choupo-Moting pounced to head home after goalkeeper Keylar Navas could only parry David Alaba’s goal-bound effort, and it showed again when Alaba forced Navas into a flying save moments later.

The goal from Choupo-Moting is a story in itself. The former Stoke City free transfer, who scored just five goals in 32 appearances in the 2017-18 season, is perhaps the least glamorous of Bayern’s heroes.

However, the former PSG man who spent two years in Paris before moving to the Bundesliga, is a different prospect these days at the age of 32, standing in for Robert Lewandowski.

Once ahead you expected Bayern to score more, but instead, it was Neymar who came agonisingly close to connecting with a low cross after wonderful skill from Di Maria.

Some of the touches and flicks from Neymar, Di Maria, and Mbappe were a joy to behold, almost as if they were playing in a schoolyard skills contest than a Champions League quarter-final. But when an Mbappe goal was disallowed for offside, a tired Bayern refused to give up and provided a frenetic finale.

Leroy Sane came close to getting the goal they needed, as did Thomas Muller, but the way PSG held out told us even more about their Champions League chances than the skills of their forward line. And that's saying something...

PSG: Navas, Dagba, Danilo, Kimpembe, Diallo (Bakker 58); Paredes, Gueye; Di Maria (Herrera 88), Neymar, Draxler (Kean 72); Mbappe. Unused subs: Kehrer, Rafinha, Rico, Sarabia, Florenzi, Pembele, Nagera, Saidani.

Bayern: Neuer, Pavard, Boateng, Hernandez, Davies (Musiala 71); Kimmich, Alaba; Sane, Muller, Coman; Choupo-Moting (Martinez 85). Unused subs: Aguinaga, Sarr, Nianzou, Nubel, Stanisic, Zaiser.

Referee: Daniele Orsato

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