Power Serge Gnabry dou­ble fires Ger­mans into fi­nal

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - Chief Sports fea­ture Writer in Lisbon Oliver Brown

Lyon 0 Bay­ern Mu­nich 3 Gnabry 18 33, Le­wandowski 88

If man­age­ment is truly an ad­vanced sci­ence, then how do you be­gin to ex­plain the mys­tery of Serge Gnabry?

Last night the winger put Bay­ern Mu­nich in sight of stitch­ing a sixth Euro­pean star into the fa­mous red jer­sey, scor­ing his eighth and ninth goals of a stel­lar Cham­pi­ons League run to cat­a­pult his side into Sun­day’s fi­nal against Paris St-Germain.

In dom­i­nat­ing Lyon, he was, not for the first time in this long­est of sea­sons, ir­re­sistible. And yet five years ago, Tony Pulis re­garded Gnabry as sur­plus to re­quire­ments at West Bromwich Al­bion.

“But can he do it on a rainy night at Stoke?” is a ques­tion of­ten asked of the game’s most ex­trav­a­gant tal­ents. Pulis, ul­ti­mately, did not even trust him with a grimy shift at the Bri­tan­nia. Not that Gnabry, with an­other won­der­ful strike here, should care un­duly. His re­buke to unimag­i­na­tive English man­age­ment was to reach the fi­nal at Lisbon’s Es­ta­dio da Luz with a man-of-the-match per­for­mance.

Not that Pulis was the only of­fender in ne­glect­ing Gnabry’s tal­ents, of course. Arsene Wenger men­tored him for five years at Arse­nal, even­tu­ally con­clud­ing that the Ger­man “lacked a bit”. This was an evening, then, for Gnabry to pour the most scald­ing scorn upon the French­man’s verdict.

Bay­ern, to be sure, are Europe’s most deftly-tuned ma­chine un­der the aegis of Hans-Di­eter Flick. A man­ager orig­i­nally en­vis­aged only as a care­taker af­ter Nico Ko­vac’s sack­ing has re­stored the club to the glory years of Jupp Heynckes, when the Cham­pi­ons League tri­umph of 2013 sealed the rarest of tro­phy tre­bles. But his side sel­dom needed to move out of third gear to dis­patch a frag­ile Lyon.

“We know that we need to de­fend bet­ter for the fi­nal,” said Flick, with 31 wins from 34 games in charge. “But we know our big­gest strength is putting our op­po­nents un­der pres­sure.”

PSG should be un­der no il­lu­sions as to the scale of chal­lenge they con­front. While their route to the fi­nal has been smoothed by Qatari bil­lions, Bay­ern’s start­ing XI last night cost a mere £80mil­lion.

They have the pedi­gree to be ranked out­stand­ing favourites. Any side that puts seven past Chelsea in two legs and eight be­yond Barce

lona is one that should be deemed prospec­tive win­ners. They have no dis­cernible weak­ness, be­com­ing the first to win 10 con­sec­u­tive Cham­pi­ons League games.

Barcelona’s record of 45 goals in a sin­gle Euro­pean sea­son, set 20 years ago, could be theirs if they put four past the Parisians.

Alphonso Davies, their pre­co­cious left-back, is learn­ing fast as an in­te­gral part of the Bay­ern jug­ger­naut. “These guys have ba­si­cally won ev­ery­thing, but they’re still ex­cited,” he said. “They’re still hun­gry to win this one. Mak­ing it to the fi­nal is ev­ery­thing you can ask for.”

As they proved against Manch­ester City, Lyon have scant re­spect for rep­u­ta­tion. Mind­ful that any chances given up by Bay­ern would be pre­cious and fleet­ing, they es­chewed cau­tion, run­ning at the Ger­man cham­pi­ons with pace and in­tent. It al­most yielded early re­ward, as Max­ence Ca­que­ret slid through the per­fect pass for Mem­phis De­pay to split Bay­ern’s cen­tre­backs. The Dutch­man should have made the mo­ment count, had he shown a shade more com­po­sure to round Manuel Neuer.

If this first slip-up was costly, the sec­ond was cru­cial. When Karl Toko Ekambi found his shot blocked by Davies, he had to score with the re­bound, but his de­spair­ing re­ac­tion as he watched his shot crash into the near post spoke vol­umes.

Sec­onds later, Joshua Kim­mich floated the ball over Maxwel Cor­net to find Gnabry in space and the winger sliced his way in­field and ri­fled a left-foot strike past An­thony Lopes with im­pec­ca­ble pre­ci­sion. “We strug­gled for the first few min­utes,” Gnabry ac­knowl­edged. “My goal came at the right time to give us con­fi­dence.”

In that in­stant, Lyon’s men­tal­ity shifted from pur­pose­ful at­tack to a des­per­a­tion not to con­cede a sec­ond. Bay­ern sensed blood and set about de­vour­ing their prey whole.

Ivan Perisic swung in a dev­il­ish cross for Robert Le­wandowski, whose ef­fort ric­o­cheted off Lopes and into Gnabry’s path and the 25-year-old’s ninth goal of a stun­ning Cham­pi­ons League cam­paign could scarcely have been sim­pler.

To be sure, Lyon needed sharper in­stincts up front than those shown by the hap­less Ekambi. Houssem Aouar squared a bril­liant pass for the Cameroo­nian, who could only lash it into Neuer’s trail­ing leg.

Bay­ern were able to play out what re­mained of their semi-fi­nal es­sen­tially as a train­ing game. Philippe Coutinho thought he had ap­plied the fi­nal flour­ish only to be judged marginally off­side.

It fell to Le­wandowski, fit­tingly, to plunge the fi­nal dag­ger. The Pole, such a prodi­gious force through­out Bay­ern’s Bun­desliga cam­paign, put him­self in the per­fect po­si­tion to evade Marcelo and nod in at the far post. From the cham­pi­ons-in-wait­ing, it was an­other ob­ject les­son in how to make the ex­cep­tional look ef­fort­less.

Lyon (3-5-2): Lopes 5; De­nayer 5, Marcelo 4, Mar­cal 4; Dubois 6 (Tete 67), Ca­que­ret 5, Guimaraes 6 (Men­des h-t), Aouar 6, Cor­net 5; De­pay 5 (Dem­bele 58), Ekambi 3 (Reine-Ade­laide 67). Subs Tataru­sanu (g), An­der­sen, Da Silva, Traore, Cherki, Lu­cas, Bard, Diomande. Booked Marcelo, Mar­cal, Men­des.

Bay­ern Mu­nich (4-2-3-1): Neuer 7; Kim­mich 7, Boateng 6 (Sule h-t), Alaba 7, Davies 7; Thi­ago 7 (Tolisso 82), Goret­zka 7 (Pavard 82); Gnabry 9 (Coutinho 75), Muller 6, Perisic 6 (Co­man 63); Le­wandowski 7. Subs Ulreich (g), Odri­o­zola, Martinez, Cui­sance, Lu­cas, Zirkzee, Hoff­mann. Ref­eree A La­hoz (Spain).

Joy unbounded: Serge Gnabry cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing Bay­ern Mu­nich’s first goal with a bril­liant fin­ish af­ter a fine move against Lyon

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