Wolfsburg Smash And Grab Shatters Barca

VfL Wolfsburg 1-0 Barcelona

By Ben Gilby

Despite being second best in possession and territory for much of the evening in San Sebastian, it was Wolfsburg who edged their way into a fifth Champions League Final with victory over a luckless Barcelona.

The Spanish champions fashioned the first chances of this semi-final when Norwegian international Caroline Graham Hansen’s run down the left ended with her cutting in and shooting wide. Shortly afterwards, Asisat Oshoala played a lovely one-two with Maria Pilar Leon before hitting the side netting.

It took Wolfsburg until the twenty-first minute to create their first real opportunity and it came through Joelle Wedemeyer whose effort from outside the box was parried and then pounced on by Sandra Panos in the Barca goal.

The Germans then created a flurry of opportunities – Khajeh Doorsan put Fridolina Rolfo thorugh, but the Swedish international ballooned her shot over the bar. Minutes afterwards Rolfo combined with Pernille Harder, who was kept quiet all evening, but a crunching challenge from Kheira Hamraoui cleared the danger.

Barcelona responed eight minutes before the break when a move was set in action by Jennifer Hermoso which saw Graham Hansen feed Oshoala. The Nigerian went in for the ball with Wolfsburg defender Kathrin Hendrich and keeper Friederike Abt with all three having to be disentangled after the ball was cleared.

There were two further opportunities for the Catalans in the closing stages of the half both involving Caroline Graham Hansen. First, she came in from the left and hit a shot diagonally across the goal which was wide, and then the Norwegian’s free-kick from the right swerved straight into the arms of Abt.

Wolfsburg offered more in the opening exchanges of the second half, and Alexandra Popp’s header from a corner flew over.

However, a minute later, there was a golden opportunity for Barca. Hermoso released Graham Hansen who found herself free on the edge of the box with options – shoot or square it to Asisat Oshoala – unfortunately neither really eventuated as Hansen took the ball too far before attempting to centre, with Abt saving comfortably.

Barcelona would pay for this indecision on the fifty-eighth minute, Wolfsburg fashioned the only goal of the game. Ingrid Syrstad Engen played an inch perfect cross field ball to Svenja Huth whose cross was poorly dealt with by Andrea Pereira allowing Ewa Pajor to launch an overhead kick which in turn stuck the foot of a defender and rebounded into the path of Fridolina Rolfo who smashed the ball gleefully into the net.

The Swede’s goal was the last offensive act that Wolfsburg would offer in the game as Barcelona dominated the remaining thirty-two minutes in a fruitless attempt to get back into this semi-final.

Leila Ouahabi’s cross found the head of Oshoala. Her powerful header was tipped over by Abt, but the officials refused to award the corner for Barcelona. The frustration mounted just four minutes later when Mariana Caldertey side footed an effort over the bar.

The chances stacked up for the Catalans – Marta Torrejon ran through and centred to Hermoso, whose effort went wide. Graham Hansen sent in a dangerous low ball into the midst of the six yard box, but again, Hermoso’s luck was out as she couldn’t quite stretch enough to reach it. With six minutes left, Torrejon played in another ball which substitute Aitana Bonmati could only lift over the bar.

It was a classic smash and grab raid by Wolfsburg to make their fifth Champions League Final in eight years. Whilst their joy was unconfined at the final whistle, for Barca, it was a case of what might have been, or indeed what should have been.

Teams: VfL WOLFSBURG: Abt, Doorsan, Hendrich, Wedemeyer, Huth, Syrstad Engen, Popp, Rolfo, Harder, Pajor. Substitutes: Jakobfi, Oberdorf (for Popp), Bremer (for Pajor), Blasse, Kassen (GK), Rauch, Wolter (for Rolfo), Dickerann, Goessling, Grawe, Kiedrzynek (GK)

Scorer: Rolfo 58

BARCELONA: Panos, Ouahabi, Pereira, Leon, Torrejon, Putellas, Hamraoui, Hermoso, Caldertey, Oshoala, Graham Hansen. Substitutes: Serrano, Losada (for Ouahabi), Guijarro (for Putellas), Coll (GK) Bonmati (for Oshoala), Crnogorcevic, Martens (for Hamraoui), Queiroz, Font (GK), Panedos, Velasco, Costa.

Referee: Katalin Kulczar (HUN).

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