Kings of Europe

Bril­liant Ger­mans win sixth Euro­pean Cup

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - CHIEF SPORTS WRITER in Lisbon

While not an emo­tional man by na­ture, Hansi Flick could not re­sist rais­ing a hand to the skies in salute as Kings­ley Co­man’s bul­let header ce­mented Bayern Mu­nich’s place along­side Liver­pool as six-time cham­pi­ons of Europe.

Af­ter all, it was the man­ager’s in­spired late switch, drop­ping Ivan Perisic to the bench, that ex­plained why the winger even started this fi­nal in the first place. Now, here was a young French­man, a for­mer star­let for Paris St-Ger­main no less, sink­ing his for­mer club in the most im­por­tant match in their his­tory.

We can dwell on the in­spi­ra­tion of Co­man, the move­ment of Thomas Muller, the mid­field bril­liance of Thi­ago Al­can­tara in what was most likely his last game for Bayern but, in truth, this feat be­longed pri­mar­ily to Flick.

The club were at one of their low­est ebbs when he took over from Nico Ko­vac last Novem­ber, fresh off a 5-1 de­feat by Ein­tra­cht Frank­furt. Now, he has em­u­lated Jupp Heynckes with an ex­tra­or­di­nary tre­ble, mark­ing his 10-month trans­for­ma­tion with the Bun­desliga ti­tle, the Ger­man Cup, and now the most cov­eted prize of all. At 55, it is quite the re­turn for a man who, un­til now, had spent much of his ca­reer on the mar­gins.

Uli Hoe­ness, Bayern’s erst­while pres­i­dent, was on the verge of tears in his read-and-white scarf on the touch­line. He had en­trusted Flick with a daunt­ing pro­ject, and the coach has re­paid him with per­haps the most ex­hil­a­rat­ing brand of football the ven­er­a­ble old club have known, lift­ing this tro­phy to com­plete a 21-match win­ning streak.

Even in an empty Es­ta­dio da Luz, Flick was not about to im­pose lim­its on his play­ers’ rev­el­ries. “I didn’t an­nounce a cur­few for my boys,” he said. “If you win some­thing, you have to cel­e­brate prop­erly. I have no idea how this is go­ing to end.”

For all the Qatari bil­lions be­hind PSG, it turned out that the cham­pi­ons of France al­lowed the wrong home-grown ta­lent to leave. Co­man spent al­most a decade com­ing through their youth ranks, but left three years af­ter the Gulf state’s takeover. There could be no con­so­la­tion for PSG. Kylian Mbappe was tooth­less, and Ney­mar such a pale im­i­ta­tion of his usual self that he left cry­ing into the stands. The stage was left to Bayern and Flick.

Over time, Cham­pi­ons League fi­nals have strug­gled to match ex­pec­ta­tions, dis­solv­ing ei­ther into ten­ta­tive shad­ow­box­ing or onesided beat­downs. This one was no ex­cep­tion, as PSG found their cre­ativ­ity blunted and Bayern toiled to find the at­tack­ing flair that had served up 42 goals in their past 10 Euro­pean matches. For Flick and his men, though, there was no doubt­ing the res­o­nance of the evening. All that counted was the win.

De­spite the bad blood PSG stir among their ri­vals, it was dif­fi­cult not to feel sym­pa­thy for the fact that their first fi­nal had to take place in a de­serted echo cham­ber. The odd­ity of it all was height­ened by the spec­ta­cle in Paris of thou­sands of sup­port­ers flock­ing to the Parc des Princes, ig­nor­ing any so­ciald­is­tanc­ing rules to watch the match on a huge screen.

The mes­sage to them from Thomas Tuchel, the van­quished man­ager, was sim­ple: “We left our heart and every­thing else on the pitch.”

Alas, it was not enough. The Bavar­i­ans’ men­ace lurked in ev­ery area, with even Thi­ago try­ing his luck from 25 yards. Far from sub­dued, the Parisians fash­ioned el­e­gant at­tacks of their own. Latch­ing on to the deftest pass from Le­an­dro Pare­des, Mbappe, who should have struck first time, paused just long enough for Joshua Kim­mich to block his first shot in anger.

Robert Le­wandowski was be­ing kept strangely quiet, and yet his en­dur­ing gift is to con­jure a chance from noth­ing. So it proved when Alphonso Davies’s cross from the left fell slightly be­hind him, en­cour­ag­ing him to swivel, set him­self and an­gle a bounc­ing ball that a beaten Key­lor Navas could only watch in grat­i­tude as it re­bounded off a post.

With grim in­evitabil­ity, the histri­on­ics of Ney­mar in­creased as the ten­sion boiled. Bayern are not cyn­i­cal types, but Serge Gnabry’s late clip on the Brazil­ian gave him his cue to writhe in mor­tal an­guish. It was the in­jec­tion of ag­gra­va­tion the game needed.

Ney­mar’s the­atrics de­tracted from the mount­ing Bayern surge, led by the ir­re­press­ible Co­man. No sooner did Kim­mich float in the cutest cross from the right than the 24-year-old stood tall and drilled his header down­wards, beyond the reach of the de­spair­ing Navas.

There was, ul­ti­mately, no need for a fi­nal flour­ish, with Bayern’s sheer ob­du­racy win­ning the day. “It was a com­plete team per­for­mance,” Flick said. “When you think how we worked de­fen­sively un­til the 92nd minute, it was in­cred­i­ble.”

Bayern are the first team to win ev­ery game en route to club football’s great­est prize. Truly, they could not de­serve it more.

Class apart: Manuel Neuer lifts the Euro­pean Cup af­ter Bayern Mu­nich de­feated Paris St-Ger­main in Lisbon last night to win the com­pe­ti­tion for the sixth time

By Oliver Brown

Ris­ing to the call: Kings­ley Co­man (sec­ond left) heads home Bayern Mu­nich’s win­ner

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