The most highly anticipated matchup in the Champions League Round of 16 between PSG and Bayern Munich opened the fixture for Europe’s grandest stage.
Pre-match team news
PSG welcomed back Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi after injury. However, Christophe Galtier played it safe and kept Mbappe as an x-factor off the bench. Wonderkid Warren Zaire-Emery had his name put in the starting 11, making him the youngest player to play in a knockout stage.
Meanwhile, Julian Nagelsmann used a three-at-the-back formation, optimizing the offensive game while adding an extra man to cover PSG’s speed. Alphonso Davies and Thomas Muller would be Bayern’s valuable changing pieces off the bench.
As in previous matchups between the two teams, Bayern Munich dominated the possession game right after kickoff. Their high-motor pressing strategy made PSG’s backline misplace a few passes in the opening minutes. Choupo-Moting rang a waking bell for the sleepy defense with a dangerous shot off-target.
The midfield of maestro Kimmich and Goretzka continued to control the middle of the park. Kingsley Coman, on the left flank, won most of the duels against Achraf Hakimi and created a few big chances. But when those shots did not harm, PSG utilized Messi’s spacial awareness and dribbling to counter. More precision in the deciding pass would give Neymar a golden chance.
The first half also finished with chirping from Neymar and Pavard.
A change of pace in the second half was set to happen after Julian Nagelsmann brought in Alphonso Davies. The Canadian immediately left his mark on the game. A superb cross from the left side found a wide-open Kingsley Coman for a volley for the opening goal. The Bayern winger has a knack for scoring against PSG.
After falling behind, Galtier had to put in Kylian Mbappe. But Bayern continued to put authority on the game. Choupo-Moting’s shot was saved by the fingertips of Donnarumma and the post after Musiala’s cross. In the next play, Donnarumma’s brilliance kept Bayern from scoring off Pavard’s header. A magnificent double save from the EURO Champion.
The momentum shifted after those plays. A beautiful ball over the top to Mbappe for the one-on-one, but this time it was Yann Sommer‘s turn for a brilliant save. Neymar’s rebound found Mbappe again, but the Frenchman was offside, putting the ball in the back of the net. A couple of minutes later, Nuno Mendes used his game-breaking speed to burst past two Bayern defenders and deliver a cross to Mbappe for the score… But no, after the VAR check, Mendes was just offside, and the goal was called off.
Messi also left an impact in the second half. After another Nuno Mendes cross, Messi’s first-touch finish came close to a goal if not for Pavard. Benjamin Pavard again made the spotlight. A through ball found Messi at the edge of the box, but a quick-thinking tackle saved Bayern from facing a dangerous opportunity and sent Pavard off with a second yellow.
PSG failed to score, and the match ended 1-0 in favor of the away side.
Second leg outlook
Mbappe’s appearance changed the attitude of the game. Bayern Munich was dominating the match until Mbappe came onto the pitch. The PSG’s awakening was a little too late.
The next game in the Allianz Arena will be a tough matchup for PSG, with Bayern potentially having Sadio Mane back. PSG’s backline will pay the price if continuing to misplace passes like in the first leg.
Champions League side news
AC Milan protected home-field advantage after a 1-0 win over Tottenham with an early Brahim Diaz goal.
The Champions League continues tomorrow with Benfica vs. Club Brugge and Dortmund vs. Chelsea.
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