Bayern cruise past Lyon, advance to Champions League final

Sports Desk, Aug 19 (efe-epa).- Bayern Munich moved Wednesday to within one victory of their sixth Champions League title, overcoming a shaky start to top Lyon 3-0 and book a spot in the final for the 11th time.

The heavily favored Bundesliga giants struggled at the outset against a scrappy opponent at Estadio Jose Alvalade in Lisbon, but a Serge Gnabry goal in the 18th minute changed the complexion of that semifinal match and sent them rolling to a comfortable win.

Yet despite the final score, the match may have turned out very differently had the Ligue 1 side capitalized on one of two early opportunities.

In the fourth minute, Memphis Depay was sent through to Bayern’s penalty area by a perfect pass from Maxence Caqueret but was unable to maneuver around goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and ended up firing his shot into the side of the net.

An even better chance for Lyon came in the 17th minute, when Karl Toko-Ekambi cut into the penalty box from the right side and blasted a shot off the near post.

Bayern also nearly opened the scoring early in this behind-closed-doors match on a flubbed attempt by Leon Goretzka, whose shot in the 11th minute nearly spun into the far corner before Lyon netminder Anthony Lopes scrambled to make the save.

But it was always going to be difficult for Lyon to defend against their opponent’s array of weapons, and in the 18th minute they found themselves down on the scoreboard.

The play started with a pass along the right side by Joshua Kimmich to Gnabry, who dribbled among a crowd of Lyon defenders to the edge of the area and unleashed a left-footed missile into the top-left part of the goal.

That strike proved to be a momentum-changer, as Bayern took full control of the contest for the remainder of the first half and easily could have scored three more goals over the ensuing half hour before the intermission.

Thomas Muller had a chance four minutes after Gnabry’s goal but muffed his shot from close range; in the 38th minute Gnabry sent a lethal, curling pass to the far post, but Polish star striker Robert Lewandowski was too passive and found nothing but air in his meek attempt to tap it home.

Sandwiched in between those plays, however, Bayern made the score 2-0 on Gnabry’s second goal in the 33rd minute.

Lewandowski should have been the one to put the ball in the back of the net off a pass from Ivan Perisic but badly misplayed his shot. Lopes, however, failed to corral the ball and it was put on a tee for the German a couple of meters from the goal line.

Bayern was less dominant after the break, and Lyon nearly pulled one back on a pair of occasions in the 56th and 58th minutes.

First, a Marcelo header was corralled by Neuer, and then Toko-Ekambi had a golden one-on-one chance that was broken up by the all-time great.

Had they made good on either of those chances, there would have been plenty of time for an equalizer.

Instead, Lewandowski made up for his dreadful finishing earlier in the match by rising high and heading home a cross from Kimmich in the 88th minute.

The goal was Lewandowski’s 15th of this Champions League season, two shy of the record held by Cristiano Ronaldo (2013-14). The two would already be tied had the Pole been more clinical on Wednesday night.

With the victory, Bayern became the first team to win the first 10 games of a Champions League campaign.

They have done it under the guidance of a manager, Hans-Dieter Flick, who took charge of the Bavarians on an interim basis in November after never having been the head coach of a top-flight club.

Bayern have netted 42 goals during this Champions League campaign, which is second-most all-time (Barcelona 45; 1999-2000) even though the tournament’s quarterfinal and semifinal stages were shortened after the season resumed following a long coronavirus-triggered hiatus.

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