Bayern Munich and Lyon are playing in the UEFA Champions League semifinals on Wednesday in Lisbon. The winner will face Paris St.-Germain on Sunday in the final of the competition, European soccer’s richest club championship.
Bayern leads at the break and this feels familiar.
Bayern strolls off at the half with a 2-0 lead. That’s 10 goals in two games in Lisbon.
Lyon? They’re wondering what hit them. (Hint: It was Serge Gnabry, mostly.)
That should have been three.
Gnabry with a tantalizing cross from the right narrowly misses the left post. Lewandowski could have turned it in with a simple touch, and he’s kicking himself for, well, not kicking the ball. Oops.
Gnabry! Again! It’s 2-0!
Gnabry gets his second on a far less pretty goal, slamming in a loose ball in the goal mouth after Lopes — taking no chances again — slammed into Lewandowski to smother another shot. Unfortunately, he didn’t corral it, and Gnabry got to it first.
Gnabry actually started that, with a steal in midfield. Working across the middle he fed Perisic, who smartly drove a low cross in from the left. The collision created the rebound, and there you go: 2-0 Bayern. Just like that.
Lopes smothers a shot, and Lewandowski.
Burned by his defense on the Gnabry goal, Lopes is asserting himself a bit. Shouting more. Gesturing. And he just cleaned out Lewandowski — fairly, but roughly — on his way to a 50/50 ball. Better safe than sorry.
Gnabry gives Bayern a 1-0 lead!
That looked a lot easier than it was. Gnabry corrals a long, looping pass effortlessly on the right wing and, sensing space inside, bursts into it. A couple of touches give him an opening, and just as the ball rolls across the top of the penalty area he rips a left-footed shot — from in between FIVE defenders — that screams past Lopes into the top left corner. Wow. Terrific goal, and Bayern leads, 1-0.
That shows how fast Bayern can burn you; it was less than a minute after a ball dinged off Neuer’s post, and off a long ball meant to allow them to recover.
Instead Gnabry scores a rocket, and Bayern suddenly has the lead.
Ekambi off the post!
First he turned Alphonso Davies at the byline. Then, drawing the ball onto his left foot, his ripped shot beats Neuer but bangs off the post and caroms right back at him. Wonderful play. No reward.
Now it’s Bayern’s turn. Goretzka misfires from in close.
A wonderful touch from Lewandowski, Bayern’s target man, allows Goretzka to sneak in behind on the right. But he whiffs on his shot, barely touching the ball, and rolls harmlessly across the goal.
Harmlessly, that is, until Lopes realizes it might just sneak inside the left post and he dives to push it out for a corner.
Memphis breaks in alone! But his shot is wide.
A big mistake by Bayern — shades of Barcelona — as a ball from deep in midfield splits the center backs and springs Memphis Depay straight down the middle, sprinting out of the center circle. But Depay takes too many touches trying to round the massive Neuer, though, and sends his falling shot into the right-side netting.
Huge early chance there.
Bayern is stretching the field already.
Gaps suit the Bundesliga champs, and so they have immediately tried to stretch Lyon wide and side to side in the opening minutes. But Rudi Garcia is no fool, and Lyon isn’t falling for this. It’s quite possible they have seen the Barcelona tape and know what happens if you do.
Rory Smith’s semifinal preview: Rested vs. rusty?
It has been only a couple of months since Jean-Michel Aulas declared that this would all be quite impossible. France’s soccer authorities had declared an end to the Ligue 1 season — with 10 games still remaining — in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, and Aulas, the owner and president of Olympique Lyonnais, was simmering.
Not only would the cancellation cost French clubs revenue, time and players, Aulas said, not only would it deprive his team of the chance to improve on its standing — it sat seventh in the league table when the season was stopped, meaning it faced the prospect of a first season outside European competition in more than a decade — but it would hamstring the attempts of the two French representatives of the Champions League.
Aulas’s theory was simple, and it was widely held: Lyon and Paris St.-Germain, the two French teams still alive in the knockout rounds, would return to the Champions League cold, weakened with ring rust, against opponents in the full flush of the season. “In August, we are going to meet teams in these competitions who have been able to prepare better than us,” he had said in the spring.
On Tuesday night, P.S.G. became the first French team to reach a Champions League final since Monaco in 2004. On Wednesday, Lyon can join its great rival, though there is the rather…