TORONTO, Canada—It was a wild match in Lisbon for a unique UEFA Champions League final that saw a Canadian youngster take to the biggest stage in club football.
Alphonso Davies stepped onto the pitch in Lisbon with a nation behind him. It was the first time ever that a Canadian men’s national team player featured in the final of the tournament.
With 24 starts in the Bundesliga, along with seven in the UCL, Davies entered the biggest match of his young career looking to extend Bayern Munich’s win streak to 21 matches, along with bringing home their sixth Champions League title.
Whilst the fleet-footed full-back has been ferocious up and down the Bayern left flank, this final against a PSG side looking for their first UCL trophy presented Davies with one of the toughest tasks in world football.
Here’s how Phonzie fared in the UEFA Champions League Final.
Today is the day let’s goo!! pic.twitter.com/fy3lDuHtHs— Alphonso Davies (@AlphonsoDavies) August 23, 2020
In his usual position at left-back, Davies had the not-so-easy challenge of facing Angel Di Maria. The Argentinian had started in the previous knockout match against RB Leipzig in which he netted one and assisted two.
Di Maria started purposefully and went at Davies aggressively. Perhaps the inexperience of the Canadian was an area he thought he could attack—and so he did. The first real coming together was in the 6th minute when Di Maria was flagged for offside with Phonzie touch-tight. After the whistle, Di Maria was warned by the referee as he threw a sly elbow Davies’ way. No card was shown, but the tone was set early on.
Just three minutes later, Davies was called back into action to defend a free-kick coming from the other side of the pitch. Di Maria played in a dangerous looking cross, but the Canadian met the ball at the back post to clear it away from an on-rushing Ander Herrera. It was his only clearance of the night but very important early on.
As the match progressed and both teams struggled to find their regular flow, Davies steadily started to sneak up the pitch. A number of one-twos with Kingsley Coman proved unsuccessful early, but it didn’t shake his confidence.
When given some space in a deep-lying role, Thiago spread the ball out wide for Davies to play in one of his three crosses in the match towards Robert Lewandowski. The big Pole received the perfectly played cross, made space for him to open up to shoot, and was denied by the woodwork. Halfway through the first half, this looked to be the best chance of the match.
Prior to the final, Lewandowski had scored in every match of this long Champions League season, but tonight was not his night.
Less that 10 minutes after the attacking threat, PSG went back to targeting Davies down his side. German right-back Timo Kehrer of the Parisian side had a go at trying to get by to the touchline, but was dragged down by the former Vancouver Whitecap. This led to the matches first booking. It was Davies first foul of the match, so it at first seemed harsh, but seeing as it Kehrer was about to run into the box, it made sense.
From 28 minutes on, Davies had to play against a PSG front line consisting of Di Maria, Kylian Mbappe, and Neymar whilst on a yellow card. That sounds terrifying.
Di Maria went back at Davies again a few times, and the youngster looked too nervous to put a challenge in. The only real damage caused by Di Maria was one filthy nut-meg, and I’m sure Davies can laugh about it now.
Nil-nil into half time.
The second half saw more of the same from Davies and Bayern Munich. They weren’t as lethal as they had been in this UCL season having won 10 straight quite comfortably.
Just entering the next 45 minutes, Davies began to dribble more. It looked like he had been instructed to be adventurous in his attack as opposed to just playing in the deep cross.
The attacking pressure was short lived, however, as Kylian Mbappe moved over to the right wing, going toe to toe with Davies.
Mbappe and Davies on the same wing— Faizal Khamisa (@SNFaizalKhamisa) August 23, 2020
It was the big talk in pre-match: “Who’s faster? Davies or Mbappe” and the answer is ... we didn’t really see.
The 21-year-old World Cup winner nullified Davies’ ability to roam forward as the caution for a counter was massive on his side. Likewise, Mbappe was hoping for the counter to arrive whilst the Canadian was up front, though, unfortunately for fans, it never happened.
After the chess-match of positional play and the nervous challenges for nearly an hour, Bayern Munich broke through. Kingsley Coman got on the end of a fantastic lofted ball in from Joshua Kimmich and scored against the team that brought him through their youth academy. Coman’s eighth goal of the season was undeniably one the most important goals of his career.
After his side took the lead, Davies would go on to seem more comfortable defensively. One instance saw him calmly head a deadly looking cross to a grateful Manuel Neuer. And on a much later occurance, shielded Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting from running onto a low driven cross into the box.
Despite a shaky start to the UCL Final, the youngster played all 90 minutes in the Bayern defence in a hard-fought 1-0 UCL final win.
Bayern Munich not only complete their treble season, but they have now added a phenomenal sixth UCL trophy to their cabinet.
Alphonso Davies becomes the first Canadian men’s national team player to win the UEFA Champions League.
“Who would have guessed it a kid from Canada, Edmonton Alberta,” Davies wrote on Twitter after the match. “Most people don’t even know where that (is). Where it snows I’m talking -40 weather, he’s now a champion league winner.”
It’s a historic night for Canada soccer, but what’s greater, is that this is just the start of the young Canadian’s career.