The Bayern Munich juggernaut rolls on. Lyon had their moments, particularly during the early running, and they were able to feel they played a number of Bayern’s attacking threats well. Although Robert Lewandowski applied the gloss to the scoreline late on, it was not truly his night and the same could be said of Thomas Müller and Ivan Perisic.
But when the menace comes from all angles, it is a tall order to keep it all out. Too tall an order. Against this Bayern team, it is inevitable somebody will cut loose and it was Serge Gnabry who brought down Lyon one step shy of their first European final.
Gnabry has form in this season’s Champions League. Remember his four-goal return in the 7-2 win at Tottenham? Or his double in the 3-0 victory at Chelsea? He made the difference with two more during a scintillating first-half burst to set up a mouthwatering final with Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday and leave Hansi Flick dreaming of the perfect finale to his debut season as the Bayern manager.
It feels remarkable to write that Flick had never been in charge of a top-flight club until he succeeded Niko Kovac last November. Bayern were struggling yet the run of results the 55-year-old has overseen almost defies belief. This was his 35th game in all competitions. He has won 32. It is form that has already carried the club to a domestic league and cup double. Now the ultimate prize beckons.
Flick has enviable resources at this disposal. Consider some of the players on the bench – Benjamin Pavard, Lucas Hernandez, Philippe Coutinho and Kingsley Coman. But he has brought them together as a collective, instilling a ferocious work ethic that is the basis for their relentless pressing, creating a platform for the stars to shine. They feel well set for a first triumph in this competition since 2013.
It has been a tumultuous season for Lyon, scorched by a poor start that saw them curtail Sylvinho’s disastrous tenure and turn to Rudi Garcia. He could lift them no higher than seventh in Ligue 1. It has been blighted by fan unrest and the struggles of expensive signings. Lyon overcame so much to reach the semi-finals, not least Juventus and Manchester City, but they could not overcome Bayern.
Lyon’s regrets will centre on the chances they missed in the opening 17 minutes. Memphis Depay could not beat Manuel Neuer when one-on-one and Karl Toko Ekambi shot against the post after getting the better of Alphonso Davies and David Alaba.
There was also the moment when Maxwell Cornet could not pick out Ekambi in the middle after he ran free up the left. 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 Bayern had felt affronted by Lyon’s temerity. The response was ferocious and it was sparked by Gnabry’s first goal which came after he took a sumptuous first touch and sliced inside. He had the strength to brush off Bruno Guimarães and the skill to buy a yard from Jason Denayer. The left-foot shot flashed into the top corner.
Bayern located their groove and they might have had more than two by half-time. 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 from him and not the first.
Moments earlier, Lewandowski had somehow failed to finish into an empty net from a Perisic cross – he got himself into a tangle – but, when the ball broke off Lopes, Gnabry was there for the tap-in. Gnabry had sparked the move and, at that point, it felt as though Lyon could not get close to him.
What can be said about this Bayern team – and it will encourage PSG – is that they leave gaps at the back, partly owing to their high defensive line. They bank on their pace on the cover to bail them out – Alaba is quick; Davies ridiculously so – but it was not enough to stop Lyon making them look vulnerable.
The problem for Lyon was that they could not finish and they knew it was not to be their night when Ekambi blew another clear chance on 56 minutes. Niklas Süle, the Bayern substitute, stumbled and, when Houssem Aouar crossed, Ekambi had only Neuer to beat. The goalkeeper, though, was off his line quickly to block.
Perisic had failed to find a way past Lopes when one-on-one and, after Coutinho had a goal ruled out for offside late on, Lewandowski enjoyed the last word, heading home from Joshua Kimmich’s free-kick two minutes from time. It was his 55th club goal of the season – yet another detail of supremacy. Bayern want more.