VfL Wolfsburg 1-3 Olympique Lyonnais
By Ben Gilby
Lyon won their fifth UEFA Women’s Champions League in a row and seventh from the last ten finals after victory in a high quality final against Wolfsburg in San Sebastian.
The final was settled by a goal from Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir, who, with great irony had actually played more games for the German side in this elongated season’s competition than for her new French team.
Wolfsburg went into their fifth Champions League final in eight years desperate to put right their record of losing to Lyon in two previous finals. With their opponents missing both Ada Hegeberg (injury) and Nikita Parris (suspension) up front, the German champions felt that they had a real opportunity to claim their third Champions League title.
It was a lively start to the final with both teams showing their intent to attack from the first whistle. The French side fashioned the first opportunity when Saki Kumagai’s effort was well saved by Friederike Abt in the Wolfsburg goal.
The perennial danger of Lyon talisman Wendie Renard from set pieces was also in evident in the opening exchanges as her headers from both Dzenifer Marozsan and Amel Majri’s free-kicks narrowly missed the target.
In between, Chelsea target Pernille Harder had an effort on what was to be a relatively quiet night by her standards. Renard’s header clear fell to the Dane but her effort went over the bar.
Wolfsburg let another opportunity slip by on the quarter hour mark when Ewa Pajor and Alexandra Popp combined with a one-two but Sarah Bouhaddi in the Olympique Lyonnais goal claimed the ball.
Lyon made the Germans pay for missing those two opportunities on the twenty-fifth minute when a magnificent move down the right involving the influential Delphine Cascasino saw the ball cut back to Eugenie Le Sommer whose first effort was blocked by the feet of Abt, but the striker followed up rapidly with two defenders standing still around her to score.
Wolfsburg responded well, and within three minutes had another opportunity as Popp headed over. They were playing an excellent patient passing game which conjured up a chance for Fridolina Rolfo but the Swedish international side footed wide.
Cascarino was causing huge problems down the right with Sakina Karchaoui impressing on the left – and it was this pair that were influential for the remainder of Lyon’s efforts in the opening period.
From one such piece of Cascarino excellence, the 23 year-old laid off a ball from a corner to Saki Kumagai just outside the ‘D’ and the Japanese international crashed a shot in the bottom corner to put Lyon 2-0 up at the break.
The French champions almost made it three within minutes of the restart as Sakina Karchaoui ran down the left and cut in to feed Eugenie Le Sommer, but her effort was pushed out by Abt for a corner.
Wolfsburg rallied and Pernille Harder played in Svenja Huth whose cross was below standard and Ewa Pajor could not take advantage.
Just four minutes later, the Germans had better luck. Harder fed Rolfo who put in a great ball which Sarah Bouhaddi could only palm into the path of Alexandra Popp who didn’t miss.
Popp later combined well with substitute Pia-Sophie Wolter but the move was curtailed for offside.
Wolfsburg were pressing well, but unable to create the sufficient quality that was needed to bother Lyon, and as the game entered its final five minutes, it was the French side who rose to the occasion.
Lioness Jodie Taylor, on for Dzenifer Marozsan played in Eugenie Le Sommer, only for Lena Oberdorf to clear for a corner. From the resulting flag kick, Le Sommer drove in an effort which was heading narrowly wide before Icelandic international Sarah Bjork Gunnarsdottir stuck out a leg to deflect the ball past Abt for the winner.
There was one last chance for Lyon to add the icing on the cake when Melanie Malard found Taylor, but Abt saved with the assistant referee raising an offside flag.
Wolfsburg will feel that the score line didn’t do their efforts justice, but they learned a painful lesson – in order to defeat Olympique Lyonnais you have to convert a far higher ratio of the chances you create. They also lacked a playmaker with the creativity of Delphine Cascarino who, at her best can be unplayable.
Lyon took the honours yet again – but there is a growing band of teams across the continent, notably in England, who will feel that next time round things might be different.
Teams: VfL WOLFSBURG: Abt, Blasse, Goessling, Doorsan Khajeh, Jansson, Huth, Syrstad Engen, Popp, Rolfo, Harder (c), Pajor. Substitutes: Kassen (GK), Kiedrzynek (GK), Jakobfi, Heindrich (for Doorsan Khajeh), Oberdorf (for Pajor), Bremer (for Blasse), Rauch, Wolter (for Huth), Dickermann, Wiedermeyer, Grawe.
Scorer: Popp 58
OLYMPIQUE LYONNAIS: Bouhaddi, Karchaoui, Renard (c), Buchanan, Bronze, Kumagai, Gunnarsdottir, Majri, Marozsan, Cascarino, Le Sommer. Substitutes: Gallardo (GK), Talaslahti (GK), Bacha, Henry, van der Sanden (for Cascarino), Carpenter, Greenwood (for Le Sommer), Cayman, Taylor (for Marozsan), Malard (for Majri).
Scorers: Le Sommer 25, Kumagai 43, Gunnarsdottir 88.
Referee: Esther Staubli (SUI).