MUNICH — Bayern Munich booked their place in the Champions League quarterfinals as second-half goals from Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Serge Gnabry sealed a 2-0 win and ended Paris Saint-Germain‘s latest attempt at winning their first European Cup.
PSG, who lost to Bayern in Lisbon, Portugal, in their only Champions League final appearance to date in 2020, crashed out 3-0 on aggregate after losing the first-leg 1-0 in Paris. The defeat is now likely to spark a major upheaval at Parc des Princes, with a number of senior players out of contract at the end of the season.
1. PSG project fails again as Bayern prove their pedigree
Big changes lie ahead at Paris Saint-Germain this summer after their expensively assembled squad once again failed to deliver Champions League glory. After being eliminated in the round of 16 by Real Madrid last season, the French champions had the misfortune of being paired with another Champions League heavyweight in Bayern Munich at the same stage this time around, and it was a case of the same old story.
In continental competition, all PSG’s Qatari owners have to show for their mammoth investment in the club is one final appearance. As such, the policy of spending big to sign superstars such as Lionel Messi, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Sergio Ramos has failed to deliver the biggest trophy of all in the club game.
Both Messi and Ramos are out of contract this summer and neither did enough against Bayern to suggest they should be given a new deal, while Mbappe failed to produce the big performance a player of his stature is expected to deliver. With Neymar injured yet again — an ankle injury will keep him out for the rest of the season — this defeat feels like a big moment in PSG’s relatively brief history.
Do the owners continue with the same big-spending approach or rip it up and start again? They have plenty of time to answer that question now that PSG have suffered another early exit from the Champions League.
Some clubs can’t succeed in the competition no matter how much they spend — Manchester City are also still waiting to win it for the first time — but the likes of Bayern and Real have the secret ingredient that ensures consistent success. Bayern had to weather an early PSG storm before taking control of this game, but once Choupo-Moting put them ahead on 60 minutes, the tie was in the bag.
PSG’s team of all-stars simply failed to live up to their hype and Bayern brushed them aside. This isn’t a vintage Bayern team, but nobody will want to face them in the latter stages simply because they know how to win in this competition. Unlike PSG.
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2. World Cup triumph feels a lifetime ago for Messi
This might just have been the game in which Messi saw his last chance of one more Champions League crown disappear forever. The PSG forward will be almost 37 when the 2024 final comes around, and he might not even be playing in Europe by then if clubs in Saudi Arabia and MLS are able to persuade him to seek a new challenge when his contract expires at Parc des Princes this summer.
Messi has already banked four Champions League winners’ medals with Barcelona and he unforgettably won the World Cup with Argentina in Qatar this past December, so he has nothing left to achieve in the game. Yet he joined PSG in 2021 with the challenge of helping the French team finally win their first Champions League, and for the second successive season, he and PSG have gone out in the round of 16.
What was noticeable against Bayern, though, in both legs, was how little Messi was able to contribute when it really mattered. The knockout rounds of the Champions League are the absolute pinnacle of the game in terms of quality, and the level is so much higher than the World Cup.
Messi has simply struggled to lay a glove on Bayern over two legs. At 35, he is no longer the unstoppable force of his younger years, but he was able to overcome that in Qatar.
This is a different level, though, and Bayern made him look ordinary. That reality might just make Messi decide to check out this summer, before he finds it even tougher next season.
3. Musiala carries Bayern’s hopes, but he needs help
There was so much talent on the Allianz Arena pitch for this game, but no player shone brighter than Bayern’s Jamal Musiala. PSG had no answer to the 20-year-old when he burst forward with pace and purpose, and it was only the poor finishing of his teammates that denied Musiala the opportunity to decide the game.
As Bayern head into the quarterfinals, they know they have a player in Musiala who can trouble any of the favourites on the way to the final in Istanbul, but Julian Nagelsmann’s team need somebody else to step up and help Musiala carry the burden.
It could be Sadio Mane, who replaced Musiala as a late substitute, or Leroy Sane. The likes of Gnabry and Kingsley Coman also have the ability to be match winners. In midfield, the strength and energy of Leon Goretzka helps Thomas Muller get through games, and centre-backs Dayot Upamecano and Matthijs de Ligt are both still capable of living up to the hype that accompanied their respective breakthroughs in recent seasons.
Right now, though, only Musiala is looking like the kind of world-class player that Bayern used to have in abundance. He is the one who gives Nagelsmann’s side their spark, but it would be asking too much to expect him to carry Bayern all the way to Champions League glory on his own.
Best and worst performers
BEST: Jamal Musiala, Bayern Munich. The 20-year-old forward was Bayern’s best player, always probing and trying to find the pass to create an opening. Head and shoulders above the rest.
BEST: Leon Goretzka, Bayern Munich. The Bayern star dominated the midfield and his first-half shoulder charge on Messi summed up how he approached this game. No quarter given.
BEST: Thomas Muller, Bayern Munich. Seems to have been around forever, and he has been written off plenty of times, but the 33-year-old turned back the block with a big performance for Bayern.
WORST: Sergio Ramos, PSG. The PSG defender was acting as his team’s centre-forward at times, which left his back four exposed to Bayern’s attacks. Spent way too much time going forward when he should have been defending.
WORST: Kylian Mbappe, PSG. PSG’s talisman talked his team up as favourites, despite the 1-0 first-leg deficit, but for that claim to be justified, he had to lead PSG to victory. He didn’t. He barely troubled Bayern.
WORST: Vitinha, PSG. Had a golden chance to open the scoring for PSG in the first half, but he wasn’t clinical enough with the empty goal gaping. A huge moment in the tie.
Highlights and notable moments
Choupo-Moting? Yeah, he’s excited. Have a look at Nagelsmann, though. That’s what genuine excitement looks like.
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting haunts his old club!
Marco Verratti runs into pressure and Bayern Munich punishes PSG. 💥 pic.twitter.com/vmMtH7QfYh
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) March 8, 2023
After the match: What the players/managers said
Nagelsmann: “In the first half, we didn’t do what we had spoken about before very well. There was too much space. We defended better in the second half and were dangerous on the ball. In the end, we deserved to win”
PSG manager Christophe Galtier: “The difference with Bayern? Workforce availability. We had a lot of important absentees in the first game and in the second game. It remains a great disappointment, everyone is disappointed, myself the first. We had a lot of hope on this return leg.”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)
– Choupo-Moting’s goal was his third in five career matches against his former team, PSG.
– Wednesday marked the 10th time PSG have been held scoreless in a Champions League knockout-round fixture.
– Five of Bayern’s past six goals vs. PSG in the Champions League have been scored by players who previously played for the Parisians: three for Choupo-Moting, two for Coman.
Bayern Munich: The Bavarians return to Allianz Arena on Saturday for a Bundesliga tilt against FC Augsburg (9:30 a.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+).
Paris Saint-Germain: PSG are also in action on Saturday, when the Parisians travel to Brittany for a Ligue 1 fixture against Brest.