After a pulsating, nerve-wracking, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting defined Champions League quarterfinal second leg between PSG and Bayern Munich, it’s the French side that saunters on in the competition by virtue of away goals since Bayern’s 1-0 victory at the Parc des Princes left the aggregate scoreline at 3-3 on Tuesday.
It says everything about how criminally underrated Robert Lewandowski is that commentators sounded like they were fulfilling a contractual obligation by mentioning his unavailability through injury for both legs, rather than discussing the absence of the best, most decisive footballer in the world today.
But it was his 32-year-old backup Choupo-Moting — who’d showcased his ineffectiveness throughout the first leg and again Tuesday night by getting caught offside, dispossessed and hardly taking any touches — who pulled one back in the 40th minute for Bayern. From two yards out, he’s dynamite.
CHUOPO-MOTING. BAYERN HAVE THE BREAKTHROUGH. pic.twitter.com/68iotuxEIj
Bayern needed just one more to make it 4-3 on aggregate, but it would ultimately finish 3-3 — mostly because of the waywardness of Neymar’s shooting.
By the end of the match, the Brazilian was effectively refusing to shoot the ball and would simply dribble until it was taken off him. But who could blame him?
Neymar went through the exact same motions as any bar patron who says “what’s the harm in just one little shot?” on a Friday night. Neymar ended up downing six shots of tequila and regurgitating the seventh.
Neymar Getting Loaded
Shot #1: Just a little taste to satisfy the thirst. It might look like a big deal for a moment, but it’s really not. Neuer was quick to react and stonewall him.
Manuel Neuer pic.twitter.com/cXq4SuCfhk
Shot #2: “I know I told myself just the one, but here’s a cheeky second!” You can see Neymar wasn’t really prepared for it — he’d only promised himself the one — so Neuer again rushed out and denied him. But the Brazilian is getting a little loose now. Neymar's hankering has been quenched, but he's now moving up Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
NEUER. AGAIN. pic.twitter.com/2Eghj4owDD
Shot #3: The effect of the alcohol is starting to work its magic. Neymar is feeling good, and when you’re feeling good you string together a bunch of step-overs before launching one at the near post. This is going really well and everyone at the bar is his friend!
Neymar pedalando e colocando o Neuer para fazer uma defesaça. pic.twitter.com/ZyErvsphYS— Gênio Neymar Jr² (fan account) (@genioneymarjr10) April 13, 2021
Shot #4: Peak feel-good drunkenness. Neymar is feeling great and dazzling everyone around him. Look at the wit, the bravado, the sheer genius of this one! This is a man at the height of his power.
Neymar out here ballin' pic.twitter.com/KiOaDO001v
Shot #5: Oh god, the liquor has turned on him. There’s no excuse for this miss other than the fact that Neymar was seeing two different goals out there.
Neymar le dio al palo por segunda ocasión, perdonó y el Bayern empató el marcador
— TUDN USA (@TUDNUSA) April 13, 2021
Shot #6: The good vibes have turned into unpleasant ones. This is the angry drunk, flailing wildly and smashing an attempt well over. It's time to sit in the corner and sulk, but contesting a Champions League quarterfinal doesn't allow this.
No es la noche de NeymarEl brasileño sigue fallando frente al arco
— TUDN USA (@TUDNUSA) April 13, 2021
Attempted Shot #7: Falling over. Unable to feel his extremities. Someone needs to put him to bed.
Questions have to be asked of Neymar’s development as a finisher, particularly since he arrived at PSG. Since scoring 24 LaLiga goals with Barcelona during the 2015-16 season, his league returns in France have dwindled from 19 (2017-18) to 15 (2018-19) to 13 (2019-20) to just six this campaign.
We obviously have to take into account the toll injuries have had on those numbers, but the natural finishing ability he exhibited early in his career — when he drew comparisons with Pelé at Santos — has gone missing in the most important matches over the last two seasons.
Last year, he performed with the same sort of panache and influence during PSG’s run to the final, but he failed to score a goal beyond the Round of 16. The juxtaposition of his magical ability and the horrible waywardness of his finishing was most clear during the quarterfinal win over Atalanta. Over the balance of the two legs against Bayern, Neymar’s performance was incredibly reminiscent of that one.
Ultimately Neymar’s performance kept Bayern at bay for large portions of the match when it should’ve been hunting for a transformative second goal. That’s not reflected on the scoresheet, but it certainly helped define the rhythm of play that’s allowed PSG to advance to the semifinals.
If you don’t believe that, you’ll at least admit that his two assists in the first leg still defined the encounter.