Paris Saint-Germain just shook up Group B of the Champions League in a huge way, utterly dominating Bayern Munich to the tune of a 3-0 win driven by goals from both Edinson Cavani and Neymar, and with Kylian Mbappe putting in a jaw-dropping performance.
PSG got things off to a hot start almost right away, with Dani Alves popping up with a late run to the far post in one of the French club’s first attacks of the match to hammer home a pass from Neymar and give his team a second-minute lead. PSG would dominate the opening minutes off that momentum, but they started to back off Bayern a bit and gave the Germans a chance to create a long, sustained spell of attacking play that nearly netted them several goals.
But Paris Saint-Germain’s defense was up to the task, and Alphonse Areola made several huge saves to keep Bayern off the scoreboard, and eventually the Germans’ momentum slowed — and PSG struck again, this time in the 31st minute off the strength of a gorgeous long-range shot from Edinson Cavani that found the top corner with incredible power.
Bayern were left scrambling for answers at halftime, and Carlo Ancelotti tried to change the game by hauling off James Rodriguez and Corentin Tolisso for Kingsley Coman and Sebastian Rudy. Rudy helped stabilize a midfield that had been shaky against PSG’s attack, but Coman provided very little out wide to help boost Bayern’s flagging attempts to score.
Even Arjen Robben struggled to make much impact on the match — but his introduction came too late as PSG had gone up 3-0 on the strength of a goal from Neymar in the 63rd minute, a goal created by some outstanding work on the ball from Kylian Mbappe, with a fake-shot-toe-drag move that left David Alaba looking around in confusion, then bodying Niklas Sule off the ball like the big German defender was a youth player.
From there, it was mostly a formality — PSG were in full control, and Bayern had no answers. It was a stunningly authoritative display that’s shaken up not just the group, but potentially the Champions League landscape as well. That is, of course, provided that Paris Saint-Germain follow up this performance with more like it. We’ve seen them pop up with dominant showings before, but fail to back them up with similar performances, like how they flopped in their second leg against Barcelona in the knockout rounds last year. But if what we saw today is the “real” PSG now, the rest of Europe needs to watch out.
Paris Saint-Germain: Alphonse Areola; Dani Alves, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Layvin Kurzawa; Marco Verratti (Julian Draxler 89’), Thiago Motta (Giovanni Lo Celso 86’), Adrien Rabiot; Kylian Mbappe (Angel Di Maria 79’), Edinson Cavani, Neymar
Goals: Alves (2’), Cavani (31’), Neymar (63’)
Bayern Munich: Sven Ulreich; Joshua Kimmich, Javi Martinez, Niklas Sule, David Alaba; Corentin Tolisso (Sebastian Rudy 46’), Thiago Alcantara, Arturo Vidal; Thomas Muller (Arjen Robben 69’) Robert Lewandowski, James Rodriguez (Kingsley Coman 46’)
Three things we learned
Kylian Mbappe is ludicrously good
Neymar may be the most expensive transfer in history, but PSG’s biggest signing this past summer may just turn out to be Kylian Mbappe. He’s been in fantastic form all season, but the way he utterly demolished Bayern’s defense all match long was absolutely jaw-dropping to watch. In fact, it’s not at all a stretch to say that he was their best player on the day, even with both Neymar and Edinson Cavani scoring.
Just look at this move that he made to set up PSG’s third goal:
Neymar scores PSG's third.— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) September 27, 2017
That Mbappe foot drag tho https://t.co/qLa8PTjVvd
Mbappe worked an excellent defender over so hard that Alaba has to retire now. Not really — but he legitimately looked so shaken for the rest of the match that it might have been on his mind.
Heck, Mbappe has been so good that this is a conversation we might have to have a whole lot sooner than later:
So, ummm, what happens if Mbappe ends up better than Neymar and, like, soon?— Mike L. Goodman (@TheM_L_G) September 27, 2017
What a problem for PSG to have.
Bayern miss Neuer, but their problems run much deeper
The absence of Manuel Neuer in goal has been a pointed one for Bayern since he re-injured his foot, but while you could argue that Neuer would have saved one if not both of the goals that Sven Ulreich allowed in the first half, the issues they’re having right now stretch much further than not having a good enough goalkeeper.
For some reason, their midfield is simply not functioning as a unit right now. It’s unusual for a team led by Carlo Ancelotti who drills his players so thoroughly, but the three men in the center of the pitch were just that — three men, each doing their own thing, not playing as one cohesive midfield unit.
Arturo Vidal looked old, Thiago Alcantara looked lost, and Corentin Tolisso just didn’t look good enough. Sebastian Rudy was a slight improvement as a defensive shield, but he didn’t do anything to help bring the rest of the midfield back together. And as a team that’s heavily built around how the midfield functions, without them playing well the rest of the Bayern team pretty well fell apart, one long dangerous spell early in the first half aside, and even that was mostly driven by James Rodriguez and Thomas Muller up front.
Don’t look now, but Adrien Rabiot is becoming a complete midfielder
It wasn’t too long ago that Rabiot looked like he was bound for the exit at PSG because he wasn’t becoming a good enough player for them to rely on. He was a good playmaker, but not as good as Marco Verratti, and he wasn’t really good at any of the other things they needed in midfield to warrant getting much playing time. Rabiot responded by refusing to leave the team and working his ass off to improve — and now PSG are reaping the rewards.
Rabiot wasn’t just a good playmaker in this match — he was crucial in linking play up to Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in attack, and he was always available as an outlet behind the front line when the attack needed to re-set or switch directions. But he was also stunningly reliable in possession, making Arturo Vidal look foolish on many occasions, and massive in defense, constantly popping up with clutch clearances and interceptions in the box to stymie dangerous Bayern attacks.
He’s finally becoming the all-around quality midfielder he’s long had the potential to be, and quietly Rabiot is becoming one of the better midfielders in Europe because of it. With him anchoring the middle of the park in a star-studded side, PSG might be in an even better position for long-term success than many fans thought.