Serge Gnabry's double sinks Lyon and fires Bayern into final
The Bayern Munich juggernaut rolls on. Hansi Flick’s team are packed with so many attacking weapons that if some of them do not get you, it feels inevitable that another one will. Here, it was Serge Gnabry who inflicted the fatal cuts on Lyon to set up a mouthwatering final with Paris St-Germain on Sunday.
Gnabry made the difference during a scintillating first-half burst to leave Flick dreaming of the perfect finale to his debut season. It feels remarkable to write that until his appointment at Bayern last November, the 55-year-old had never taken charge of a top-flight club.
Bayern were struggling but the results that Flick has overseen almost defy belief. This was his 35th game. He has won 32 of them. It is form that has already taken the club to a domestic league and cup double. Now the ultimate prize beckons.
Lyon were excellent at the outset but once Gnabry had fizzed in his first – a sensational individual effort – Bayern tightened their grip. It was a display of intensity and ruthlessness. Gnabry put them in control with his second and, although it was not really Robert Lewandowski’s night, he still found the net at the end. It was his 55th goal of the season at club level.
The stand-out quote of the build-up had come from Garcia, who acknowledged that Lyon were not a big mountain to climb but “sometimes, just a little pebble in your shoe can prevent you from climbing that little mountain.” It was a somewhat enigmatic take on David and Goliath but it made the point that Lyon believed in their ability to pull off the upset.
Lyon started brightly and it was no stretch to say that they dominated the first 17 minutes. They had two glorious chances to open the scoring, the first when Maxence Caqueret released Memphis Depay, the second when Karl Toko Ekambi worked an opening inside the area and, when they spurned both, it was easy to feel they would live to regret it.
Depay was one-on-one with Manuel Neuer and, when he darted around him, the gap was there for him to thread a shot inside the near post. Taking aim as he tumbled off balance, he could not find it and the anguish was etched across his face. Ekambi’s chance was just as clear and, having got the better of Alphonso Davies and beaten David Alaba, he looked the favourite to beat Neuer from about eight yards. His shot came back off the post.
Lyon could also point to the moment on 13 minutes when Maxwell Cornet could not pick out Ekambi in the middle when free up the left. Bayern looked loose and open. Apart from a mis-hit Leon Goretzka shot that forced Anthony Lopes into a scrambling save, it was all Lyon.
Then, everything changed. It was as if Lyon had affronted Bayern with their temerity. The response was ferocious and it was sparked by Gnabry’s opening goal, when he sliced inside after taking a sumptuous first touch before showing strength to brush off Bruno Guimarães and skill to buy a yard from Jason Denayer. The left-footed shot flashed into the top corner.
By half-time, Bayern and Gnabry had another one and Lyon had to happy that the damage was not more severe. When the German team settle into their high-tempo groove, it can feel as though they have threats from all angles. Lyon gasped for breath.
Thomas Müller failed to capitalise on a dinked free-kick to him from Thiago Alcântara, Gnabry was denied by Lopes, Davies flickered and Lewandowski could not apply a decisive touch to a Gnabry cross. It was a bad miss and not his first.
Moments earlier, Lewandowski had somehow failed to finish into an empty net from an Ivan Perisic cross – he got himself into a tangle – but, when the ball broke off Lopes, Gnabry was there for a tap-in. Gnabry had sparked the move and it felt as though Lyon could not get close to him.
Bayern’s high defensive line had been a factor in their early wobbles but it also stood as a symbol of their confidence. Such is the pace in their defensive ranks, they back themselves to get back when needed and nowhere was it more apparent than in the shape of Davies. Jet-heeled does not begin to cover it. Alaba, too, is no slouch.
That said, if there is a weakness in this team, it is in the defensive third. Spaces can be found against them and Lyon found some in the 56th minute after Niklas Süle, the substitute, stumbled and Houssem Aouar crossed for Ekambi. With only Neuer to beat, he had to score. Neuer, though, was off his line quickly to block. Perisic had blown a one-on-one with Lopes at the start of the second-half and Lyon knew that a goal for them could change the complexion of the evening.
They could not find it and, after the Bayern substitute, Philippe Coutinho, had a goal ruled out for offside, Lewandowski had the last word.
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Immer wenn die Bayern in ihrer Europapokalgeschichte die Partie eindeutig dominiert haben, haben sie das Endspiel verloren, gegen Porto 1987, gegen Aston Villa 1982, gegen United 1999, gegen Chelsea 2012. Wenn es dagegen eine ganz enge Partie war, dann haben die Bayern am Ende den Pokal in den Himmel gestemmt. Das Gesetz besteht weiter. Die Bayern sind die Sieger, und sie sind es, weil sie bei diesem Turnier letztlich das beste Team waren.