On the sidelines, one of the fastest strikers in the sport turned around – and sprinted away from Josip Stanišić. He didn't have to perform a complicated trick that night to overwhelm Stanišić, the 22-year-old defender of FC Bayern Munich. He just had to run. Karim Adeyemi can do that. And the only reason why his sprint and his cross was not followed by a goal was that centre forward Anthony Modeste swung his foot at the five-metre space at the wrong moment in that 83rd minute.

Christopher Meltzer

Sports correspondent in Munich.

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This is what it looked like in Dortmund in October 2022.

Now, in March 2023, this scene from the Westfalenstadion was present again when Julian Nagelsmann, the football coach of FC Bayern Munich, announced in the press conference on Tuesday that he was expected to use Josip Stanišić in the most important game of the season for the time being. The coach had to replace his regular player Benjamin Pavard, who had seen the yellow-red card in the first part of the round of 1 against Paris Saint-Germain (final score: 0-<> for FC Bayern).

And so, with a view to the decisive duel in the Champions League, one could ask oneself: If a defender is already overwhelmed with Karim Adeyemi, what is he with Kylian Mbappé?

"Not everyone thought he could do that"

It was 66 minutes when perhaps the fastest striker in the sport spun on the sidelines – and Stanišić didn't sprint away after all. He failed to slip the ball past the defender. For a moment, Mbappé and Stanišić jostled for the ball, which finally flooded into the sideline. The referee's decision: throw-in for FC Bayern.

This is what it looks like in March 2023 in Munich.

Late Wednesday evening, when the game had been over for a few minutes, Julian Nagelsmann gave one of many interviews. "Sensational," he said, referring to defender Josip Stanišić, who had helped his team win 2-0 on the right side of defence, the Mbappé side (goals: Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, 61st minute and Serge Gnabry, 89th minute) and advanced to the quarter-finals.

And of the sentences that the coach said about his defender in this interview, one in particular was interesting: "Not everyone thought he could make such a game." Why? Because it could be interpreted not only as a response to the Stanišić skeptics, but also to the Nagelsmann skeptics.

It's been almost a year since Julian Nagelsmann lost in his first season with Munich in the quarter-finals to Villarreal, then seventh in the Spanish league. He had the better players – and yet not the better team. It was his biggest defeat as FC Bayern, maybe even as a football coach.

And even if this apparently did not change the trust of his superiors, they lost their bet for the first time in the first season. They know that the talent of their players will sometimes be inferior to the investor clubs in the Champions League, but they are betting that their coach's tactics are superior.

On this Wednesday evening, the bet worked out for the first time. The coach used a three-man chain with Stanišić, Dayot Upamecano and Matthijs de Ligt – and urged all his players not to start pressing at the PSG penalty area. He wanted Kylian Mbappé not to sprint, Lionel Messi not to dribble. He, who usually thinks the game offensively, thought it defensively this time. And 90 minutes later, it was clear to almost everyone in the stadium: He didn't have the better players – and yet the better team.

At this point at the latest, one should at least consider what would have happened if the Portuguese midfielder Vitinha had shot the ball a little harder or a little higher in the 38th minute. The goal was empty because goalkeeper Yann Sommer had dribbled in the penalty area – a necessary reminder that he is not Manuel Neuer.

Vitinha's shot slid Matthijs de Ligt away from the line. No goal from Vitinha. None from Messi. And none of Mbappé's either. They couldn't – and at some point they didn't want to. When the ball rolled into Sommer's penalty area in the 87th minute, it was 1-0, he grabbed it not with his hands, but with his foot to gain time. Both Mbappé and Messi, who were standing nearby, saw that. But they did: nothing.

It is quite possible that they will no longer play together in the Champions League. And if that were the case, it would be the right punchline for this PSG project: The investors from Qatar could buy the two best football players in the world – but not the best team. But they probably don't care, because these players guarantee the most important thing: attention, always and everywhere. As Mbappé and Messi walked out of the stadium in Munich, a large group of people were waiting at the team bus, shouting as loudly as they would probably never do for an FC Bayern player.

In Munich, the focus is on the coach. At least that's how he sees it himself. And one could certainly understand this as an attempt at media criticism when Julian Nagelsmann suddenly said in his press conference at a late hour that he was "very much in the focus of the media", that he took the "shit" on himself – and that it was "predominantly shit".

On this evening, when he had achieved his biggest victory as FC Bayern, probably even as a football coach, he sensed that everything could change again in April when the quarter-finals were due. And although not all possible opponents have yet been determined, there is – no shit – reason for cautious optimism: Villarreal FC is not there this season.