Despite a 1-0 defeat in the second leg, PSG secured their spot in this year’s semi-finals with away goals (3-3 overall) and showed a maturity that may have been lacking in previous campaigns.
While the top three of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Angel Di Maria are undoubtedly one of the best strikers in world football, questions have often been asked about the team’s determination and willingness to do the dirty work.
Those questions were emphatically answered against Bayern as PSG resisted everything the reigning European champions threw at them, adding pragmatism to their tricks and flicks.
“Football is a beautiful game, but it’s also a game where you never give up and fight,” said PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino after the game.
He added: “We were very focused. It was a very difficult game. I am very happy because the players deserve great recognition. To win and qualify for the semi-finals is an amazing moment for us.”
Bayern misses Lewandowski
With all the money PSG has spent over the past few years, the Qatari owners expect the team to win the Champions League soon. Managers – and players – have come and gone as the club hunted for the perfect winning formula and Tuesday’s full-time celebrations were hugely important.
Neymar, who hit the wood twice in the first half, was consistently talismanic, was visibly cheered and seemed to be celebrating with his teammate Leandro Paredes right in front of Joshua Kimmich from FC Bayern, which he later described as purely coincidental.
Pochettino, who looked equally emotional, hugged Neymar several times as the players left the field. Pictures and videos on social media then showed the team partying in the locker room at home.
Bayern will have a hard time after two good performances in high-profile competition, but they have sorely missed star striker Robert Lewandowski.
The Polish international was in rampant form in front of goal this season, scoring 35 goals in the Bundesliga, but missed both legs due to injury.
This meant that Bayern’s attack was led by Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, who, despite the only goal in the second leg, cannot be classified in the same category as a superstar like Lewandowski. The absence of other high-profile players like Serge Gnabry also meant manager Hansi Flick ran out of options from the bench, which was largely full of inexperienced youth.
Even without the main goal scorer and despite the defeat, Flick suggested that his team deserve more.
“I thought we were the better team in both games,” said Flick. “We were a bit lucky, we missed some players, but we have to accept it.”
In truth, Pochettino’s plan worked perfectly. Seeming more than happy that Bayern dominated possession for much of the draw, he helped his defensive players with the footwork – a task made difficult by captain Marquinhos’ injury.
The suction of Bayern in PSG made way for counterattacks, which was an exciting spectacle for the neutrals.
Now that Bayern are eliminated, the tournament looks wide open and PSG will be confident they knocked out the champions. It comes to Chelsea in the last four games, either against Manchester City or against Borussia Dortmund.
This could be the year PSG finally win the coveted Champions League – a trophy its owners are dying to have.