European Club Competitions

Analysis: Lyon’s Joy Tinged With Carpenter Agony

By Kieran Yap (22/5/22).

Above: Olympique Lyonnais celebrate their win over Barcelona in Turin last night. Photo: OL Feminin

Barcelona had scored 148 goals and conceded just 11 this season. They were the holders of the trophy, having dismantled a star-studded Chelsea side last time. The Ballon D’or winning Alexia Putellas was in the line-up and in form.  The Nou Camp had packed out to watch them repeatedly and public perception was that they were unstoppable.

Nobody told Olympique Lyonnais.

This fixture was infused with recent history. It was a defeat to the French power club in the 2019 final that promoted Barcelona to create one of the most frightening teams in modern football.

Lyon themselves, so long the benchmark, had been overtaken by Paris Saint Germain domestically in 2021. Yet Lyon still had a team of world-class players, a coach with winning experience as a player, and a Ballon D’or recipient of their own in Ada Hegerberg.

This was Lyon’s eighth Champions League triumph. Players as talented as Wendie Renard and Catarina Macario do not like to be written off, and Amandine Henry took only five minutes to set the tone for the game.

Above: Amandine Henry celebrates her stunning opening goal. Photo: UEFA Women’s Champions League.

After winning a 50/50 ball with Putellas, the field seemed to stop. On both sides, for a few seconds, everybody waited. Perhaps in disbelief that Putellas had been beaten, perhaps in anticipation of what Henry would produce next.

Her opening goal was scored from almost 30 yards. It was a truly vicious strike of the ball into the top right corner of the net. Barcelona were suddenly in the unfamiliar position of being a goal down.

Lyon did not try and beat Barcelona at their own game, they beat them on their terms. The defence stayed deep, and absorbed pressure. Getting caught too high up the field in a press would have given the Barcelona forwards the space to exploit. This was the patient, controlled performance of a well-drilled team that are comfortable on the big stage.

When Lyon did win the ball, they rarely cleared it hurriedly. They moved it quickly or carried it out to relieve pressure and put the opposition on the defensive. They found space between Barcelona’s midfield and back four.

A counterattack resulted in a second goal in the 23rd minute. Hegerberg was somehow left unmarked at the back post and the record scorer for the competition gave Lyon some breathing room. They would need it, Barcelona are never kept goalless.

Above: Ada Hegerberg after her goal. Photo: UEFA Women’s Champions League.

Crucially, Lyon did not attack with numbers committed forward. They have the talent to do that, not many teams do.

Hegerberg turned provider in the 33rd minute. Her initial shot was blocked but she curled a pass to the far post where Macario was on hand to tap into the bet.

Barcelona played the way they usually do, what reason would they have to change? They have been so dominant for so long that altering tactics would have looked like panic. Caroline Graham Hansen got on the ball consistently on the right flank, but was closed down quickly. She does not need much room to accelerate, but she was given none. Her delightful quick feet were nullified.

Putellas delivered as she always does. On the occasion that Graham Hansen did not try to dribble and crossed the ball early, Putellas ghosted in from outside of the box and met the ball with a stunning low volley. It was 3-1 at half time.

Bareclona had opportunities in the second half, but Lyon’s defence, marshalled by 100 game Champions League veteran Renard remained solid. Their closest opportunity came from a spectacular effort from near half-way. Guijarro’s amazing display of technique and vision deserved a goal and only the woodwork would stop her.

Above: That incredible lob from the half-way line which nearly produced another stunning goal in this final. Photo: UEFA Champions League.

A cagey second half ended with the same score line as the first. 3-1, Lyon are champions of Europe.

In a strange way, this eighth Champions League victory signals a slight equalisation of the competition. Barcelona are not unbeatable. Significantly, neither are Lyon. These two teams may still be the benchmark but at this level, both have challengers, and Lyon are not guaranteed a domestic title this season. Expect the English sides to work hard to close the gap and the professionalisation of Italy will increase the opportunity for teams like Juventus to perform.

This competition will grow, DAZN has built a worldwide viewership online and stadiums are beginning to be filled as a matter of routine.

The Champions League, like the men’s competition is growing into the pinnacle of club football. These two teams delivered campaigns and a final worthy of it.

The Australian view

Above: Ellie Carpenter post-match with the trophy. Photo: Football Australia.

For a second year in a row, Aussie football fans had a reason to wake up at 3am. Last year Sam Kerr started for the defeated Chelsea. This time, it was Ellie Carpenter in Lyon’s colours. The results were different, this time there was a winning medal for a Matilda, but this was a sadder occasion.

In the 12th minute, Carpenter had to be subbed out with what looked to be a serious injury. 13 months out from a home World Cup now means a nervous race against time for one of the world’s best fullbacks.

We know nothing about the injury at the time of writing. But it was non-contact and she celebrated on crutches then by being piggy backed around the ground. What we do know is that Carpenter is a consummate professional, with the mental strength to overcome. She will do everything she can to be fit again.

From a national team perspective, this loss is huge. She can play in a back four, five or three. Carpenter offers attacking impetus and defensive flexibility.

What this does do is show that Tony Gustavsson was correct in exploring options and giving opportunities to young players in the Matildas. Charli Grant and Charlize Rule have both spent time in the national team setup. Grant in particular is well suited as support to Carpenter or Steph Catley. She has all the physical and technical gifts, but not the experience yet.

There are potentially tough times ahead for The Matildas and for Ellie Carpenter. If it is a long-term injury, she has the silver lining of being a European Champion. She deserves it, Australia is proud of her.

Lyon Success Sets Up Mouthwatering Final With Barcelona

Jean-Pierre Thiesset reviews the UWCL semi-final second leg Paris Saint-Germain against Olympique Lyonnais (2/5/22).

Above: Wendie Renard celebrates after clinching Olympique Lyonnais’ place in the UEFA Women’s Champions League Final. Photo: OL Feminin.

Olympique Lyonnais won 2-1 away from home against Paris Saint-Germain to complete a 5-3 win on aggregate to set up a place in the final against FC Barcelona.

In front of 43,254 fans in the Parc des Princes, a record crowd for a game between two French women’s teams in France, Lyon put in a great performance to clinch their place in a tenth UEFA Women’s Champions League final on May 21 in Turin.

The game was dominated by Lyon even if it was Paris SG which had more of the ball with 62% of possession. Lyon stayed solid in midfield and defense, and were able to play their game providing several opportunities to their strikers (12 shots with four on target), while Paris SG created almost equally as well (11 shots with four on target).

Lyon opened the scoring after 14 minutes from the head of Ada Hegerberg after a perfect cross from Selma Bacha to lead 1-0 at halftime.

Above: Ellie Carpenter making a typical surging run in the Champions League Semi-Final Second Leg. Photo: OL Feminin.

After forcing a save from Christiane Endler in the Lyon goal, PSG came back to level after 62 minutes thanks to a goal from Marie-Antoinette Katoto. There was a confusing situation in the build-up in front of Lyon’s goal when Endler and Ellie Carpenter cleared a ball which finally came back to Katoto who put it in the net. PSG pressed and Endler needed to pull off another great save from Sakina Karchaoui at the 76th minute to prevent the hosts from taking the lead.

Then in the 83rd minute, Selma Bacha delivered another perfect ball on a free kick with her magic left foot to Wendie Renard who scored with a trademark header to put Lyon ahead once more on the night and complete the victory.

Goals for Lyon from Ada Hegerberg (14), Wendie Renard (83). Goal for Paris SG from Marie-Antoinette Katoto (62).

Impetus’ Trip To The Champions League Semi-Final

Jean-Pierre Thiesset was pitch-side for Impetus at the first leg of the UEFA Women’s Champions League Semi-Final First Leg tie between Olympique Lyonnais and Paris St. Germain. He reviews the action in words and EXCLUSIVE photos (26/4/22).

Above: Olympique Lyonnais jump for joy after Wendie Renard (far rightputs them 1-0 up in the UEFA Women’s Champions League Semi-Final. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset for Impetus.

Olympique Lyonnais won 3-2 at home against Paris Saint-Germain in front of 22,774 fans at the Groupama Stadium.

Lyon and PSG showed that they were two good teams that are well suited to participate in the Final in Turin next May. As might well be expected, the game was even with all the players more than up for it.

PSG scored first thanks to Marie-Antoinette Katoto who dribbled past Wendie Renard and put the ball in the net to the right of Christiane Endler, Lyon’s goalkeeper. Scores were level when Lyon were awarded a penalty when Melvine Malard was fouled by Barbora Votikova the Paris SG goalkeeper, in the 23rd minute. Wendie Renard scored.

Ten minutes later, Catarina Macario scored after a pass from Ada Hegerberg and Lyon took the lead.

Above: Catarina Macario re-establishing Lyon’s lead after 33 minutes following Ada Hegerberg’s pass. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset for Impetus.

The second half followed the same process as the first. Yet it was Lyon who extended their lead as Macario made it 3-1 after a huge mistake and misunderstanding between Votikova and one of her defenders.

Paris St. Germain got a lifeline with a penalty just before the hour mark after Melvine Malard handled the ball. Paulina Dudek scored despite Endler’s best efforts to repel her effort.

Above: The joy of Catarina Macario after she scored the third goal for Lyon. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset for Impetus.

Lyon and PSG Set Up Last Four Champions League Clash

Jean-Pierre Thiesset was pitchside for Impetus at the UEFA Women’s Champions League Quarter-Final matches between Olympique Lyonnais and Juventus. He reviews that match in words and EXCLUSIVE photos and rounds up the action between Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich (3/4/22).

Above: Ada Hegerberg puts Lyon ahead with a header from Selma Bacha’s cross against Juventus. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset for Impetus.

Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Lyonnais both made it through to the UEFA Women’s Champions League semi-finals and will play against each other for a place in the final.

Olympique Lyonnais qualified with an aggregate score of 4-3 against Juventus. After losing 2-1 away from home in the first leg on March 23 despite dominating the possession (60%), Lyon came back stronger and efficiently in the second leg on March 31st and won 3-1 at home in front of a crowd of 20,017 people. Lyon started well and put a lot of pressure on Juventus players and without a great performance by Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, Juventus goalkeeper and ex Lyon player, Lyon could have scored several goals at the beginning of the game.

Above: Olympique Lyonnais and Juventus players line up pre-game wearing blue and yellow jackets in support of Ukraine. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset for Impetus.

After a nervy moment at the 23rd minute where Selma Bacha was called upon to make a great block to prevent Juventus from opening the scoring, the home side pushed again and scored twice within two minutes just after the half hour.

Above: Melvine Malard’s header from Lindsey Horan’s cross puts Lyon 2-0 up on the night. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset for Impetus.

Lyon continued to push and delivered a very good performance, not giving Juventus the opportunity to come back. The second half was like the first one with Lyon in charge and more great saves from Peyraud-Magnin who kept her team in the game. Then, with 73 minutes played, Catarina Maccario scored the third goal for Lyon. After this third goal, Lyon continued to dominate even if Juventus still tried to come back and scored at the 84th minute. To be noted was the great performance of Lindsey Horan for her start for Lyon. She was everywhere on the field, giving a decisive passe and helping also her teammates to defend. Goals for Lyon from Ada Hegerberg (33), Melvine Malard (35), Catarina Maccario (73). Goal for Juventus from Andrea Staskova (84).

Above: Catarina Maccario’s great right-foot shot makes it 3-0 for Lyon after 73 minutes. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset foImpetus.

Paris Saint-Germain qualified for the semi-finals with a 4-3 aggregate win against Bayern Munich. After winning 2-1 away from home in the first leg on March 22 in an equal match, Paris SG thought that the most difficult part was done but Bayern Munich players came to Paris for the second leg on March 30 with more desire to qualify and almost did it in front of a crowd of 27,262 people.

Bayern Munich caused a lot of problems to PSG and dominated with 63% possession. The home side made a lot of errors, and, in my opinion, Bayern Munich would have deserved to progress to the last four. Matters were not decided until eight minutes from the end of extra-time when former Chelsea star Ramona Bachmann scored the decisive goal. Goals for Paris SG from Sandy Baltimore (17), Ramona Bachmann (112). Goals for Bayern Munich from Saki Kumagai (19), Lea Schüller (54).

Above: Lindsey Horan in action during the Lyon v Juventus Champions League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg tie.
Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset for Impetus.

Lyon Take Decisive Step Towards Last Eight

Jean-Pierre Thiesset was pitchside in the stadium EXCLUSIVELY for Impetus at Olympique Lyonnais’ UEFA Women’s Champions League Group D tie with Bayern Munich 12/11/21

Above: Lyon’s players celebrate with the fans at the end of the game. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset for Impetus.

There were 7 754 spectators in the Groupama Stadium for this UEFA Women Champions League game between Olympique Lyonnais and Bayern München (Germany).

Again, the central defense of Lyon was taken by Kadeisha Buchanan and Amandine Henry. Furthermore, Sonia Bompastor, Lyon head coach, had to do without Selma Bacha, who was slightly injured, and it was Janice Cayman who took the left side of the attack. Janice being right-handed, it was a little bit more difficult for her to bring crosses for her strikers. However, she delivered a good performance.

Above: Janice Cayman in action during Lyon-Bayern game. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset for Impetus

Overall, the game was very even, even if the play took place more in Bayern’s part of the field, with just a few more shots for Lyon but none really putting Laura Benkarth, Bayern München goalkeeper, in difficulty. The lack of crosses in the first half impacted Lyon’s goalscoring opportunities. On a Bayern counterattack at the 25th minute, Kadeisha Buchanan put the ball in her net allowing Bayern to lead 1-0. Ironically, apart from this goal, Bayern did not have a lot of opportunities to score during the first half.

Lyon started the second half with a little bit more desire. After a shot from Delphine Cascarino was blocked by the Bayern defence, Janice Cayman, who had followed the action, shot into the goal in front of Bayern goalkeeper at the 50th minute for the equalizer which put her team back in the game.

Then we had to wait the end of the game to see Amandine Henry send a header into the net from Catarina Macario’s cross after 86 minutes, to the relief of Lyon’s team and the fans.

This game saw the return of Carolin Simon and Saki Kumagai in Lyon. Saki had a great welcome from Lyon fans during the warm-up when OL ANG’ELLES fans chanted her name.

Above: Saki Kumagai during warm-up. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset for Impetus.

Statistics of the match:

Lyon: 48% of possession, 388 passes (72% successful), 17 shots (6 on target), 4 corners.

Bayern München: 52% of possession, 423 passes (69% successful), 9 shots (1 on target), 3 corners.

Goals for Lyon from Janice Cayman (50), Amandine Henry (86); Goal for Bayern from Kadeisha Buchanan (25 Over Goal).

Olympique Lyonnais: Christiane Endler – Ellie Carpenter, Kadeisha Buchanan, Amadine Henry – Janice Cayman (Emelyne Laurent, 77), Daniele Van de Donk, Damaris Egurrola (Griedge Mbock, 61), Catarina Macario (Inès Benyahia, 90+2), Perle Morroni – Melvine Malard (Signe Bruun, 77), Delphine Cascarino (Ada Hegerberg, 61). Coach, Sonia Bompastor.

Bayern München: Laura Benkarth – Carolin Simon (Viviane Asseyi, 83), Saki Kumagai, Carina Wenninger, Giulia Gwinn – Sarah Zadrazil, Lina Magull – Sofia Jakobsson (Hanna Glas, 66), Lineth Beerensteyn, Klara Bühl (Linda Dallmann, 55) – Lea Schuller (Jovana Damnjanovic, 66). Coach, Jens Scheuer.

Yellow cards: Griedge Mbock (82), Catarina Macario (90+1).

Referee: Monika Mularczyk.

Lyon Comfortably Dispatch Benfica

Above: Melvine Malard’s sensational overhead kick goal which put Lyon 3-0 ahead over Benfica. Photo exclusively for Impetus by: Jean-Pierre Thiesset.

Jean-Pierre Thiesset was pitchside in the Groupama Stadium EXCLUSIVELY for Impetus to report and photograph on the UEFA Women’s Champions League Group D game between Olympique Lyonnais and Benfica.

16/10/21

Olympique Lyonnais wrapped up a comfortable 5-0 win over Benfica in front of 4,115 spectators in the Groupama Stadium in the UEFA Women’s Champions League Group D clash.

As Wendie Renard and Griedge MBock were not in the squad for this game due to injury, their places in central defence were taken by Kadeisha Buchanan and Amandine Henry, as for the last D1 Arkema game.

Lyon started the match by putting a lot of pressure on Benfica but without being able to score. Around the half-hour mark, the home side began to build more intensity, which enabled them to play higher on the field which resulted in two goals in as many minutes.

Above: Kadeisha Buchanan (on ground) puts Lyon 1-0 up. Photo exclusively for Impetus: Jean-Pierre Thiesset.

First, after 29th minutes, Kadeisha Buchanan scored after a corner from Catarina Macario was badly cleared by the goalkeeper, and she took advantage. Then, in the 31st minute, Daniëlle Van De Donk scored after being played in by Melvine Malard.

Lyon continued to dominate the rest of the first half without increasing the score despite a lot of opportunities, especially at the last minute, when Catarino Macario sent a free-kick onto the post and Kadeisha Buchanan’s header hit the bar.

Above: Daniëlle Van De Donk (far right) makes it 2-0 for Lyon. Photo exclusively for Impetus: Jean-Pierre Thiesset.

Lyon started the second half stronger than the first half and Benfica players suffocated under their pressure and their quick game. After 10 minutes in this second half, Lyon had already increased the score by two more goals. A wonderful overhead kick goal was executed by Melvine Malard on a cross from Catarina Macario who shortly after added a penalty herself, for her seventh goal in seven games.

Above: Catarina Macario makes it 4-0 from the spot. Photo exclusively for Impetus: Jean-Pierre Thiesset.

Lyon continued to dominate the game and six minutes later, Kadeisha Buchanan flew over everyone to score a header for her second goal on the night from Selma Bacha’s free-kick. Ada Hegerberg replaced Macario at the 67th minute for her first home game in almost two years to a great ovation from the fans who were very glad to see her back. Hegerberg showed that she was already fit to help her teammates to win and caused trouble to the Benfica defenders during the last 15 minutes including almost scoring ten minutes after coming on.

Above: Kadeisha Buchanan leaps higher than the Benfica defence to make it 4-0. Photo exclusively for Impetus: Jean-Pierre Thiesset.

Statistics of the match:

Lyon: 63% of possession, 547 passes (86% successful), 33 shots (20 on target), 13 corners.

Benfica: 37% of possession, 326 passes (79% successful), 7 shots (5 on target), 1 corner.

Teams: OLYMPIQUE LYONNAIS: Endler, Bacha, Morroni, Henry, Egurrola, Carpenter, Macario, van der Donk, Cascarino, Buchanan, Malard. Subs: Paljevic (GK), Holmgren (GK), Hegerberg, Sombath, Laurent, Julini, Cayman, Bruun, Benyahia, Baga, Bahlouli.

Scorers: Buchanan 29′, 63′. Van De Donk 31′, Malard 53′, Macario (pen 56′)

BENFICA: Leticia, Seica, Faria, Vitoria, Alves, Costa, Nazareth, Amodo, Lacasse, Pauleta, Cameirao. Subs: Vilao (GK), Rebelo, Fidalgo, Silva, Cintra, Negrao, Uchelbe, Santos, Pintassligo.

Referee: Cheryl Foster (WAL).

Attendance: 4,115.

Above: OL Ang’elles fans celebrate the return of Ada Hegerberg. Photo exclusively for Impetus: Jean-Pierre Thiesset.

Lyon leave Häcken with the points

Above: Melvine Malard pictured after scoring Lyon’s first goal last night. Photo: @OLFeminin

BK Häcken 0-3 Olympique Lyonnais

Jean-Pierre Thiesset rounds-up Olympique Lyonnais’ 3-0 win away from home to 3-0 against BK Häcken in Sweden last night as Group D of UEFA Women’s Champions League got underway.

7/10/21

Olympique Lyonnais were never really in danger and dominated this game as shown by the statistics of game: for Lyon, 64% of possession, 573 passes (80% successful), 22 shots with 9 on target, 12 corners; for BK Häcken, 36% of possession, 338 passes (65% successful), seven shots with two on target, and two corners. With a little bit more success, Lyon could have scored a lot more goals. Conditions were awkward due to heavy rain.

Highlights of the first half:

4’ Shot on target from OL’s Van De Donk following a bad clearance of BK Häcken defence

6’ Buchanan clear the ball out for a BK Häcken corner.

9’ Shot on target from OL’s Malard.

10’ GOAL LYON! Malard after a right-wing cross at ground level towards the middle of the 18-yard area from Van De Donk, 0-1

20’ Cross shot from OL’s Bacha, caught by the goalkeeper.

32’ Shot from BK Häcken, stopped by Endler.

33’ On the counterattack, cross from OL’s Bacha from the left, Header by Egurrola earned a corner for Lyon.

35’  Huge opportunity for BK Häcken but Endler caught the ball at feet of Larsen in the 18-yard area making a great save.

45+2’ Huge opportunity for Lyon, shot from Malard pushed out by the goalkeeper Falk; Bruun regains possession and her shot was deflected on the cross bar by Falk.

Half-Time: BK Häcken 0-1 Olympique Lyonnais

Lyon started the second half with a lot of rhythm in their game and quickly scored the second goal after 48 minutes; a shot from Cascarino following a cross from Bacha at the far post was cleared by Falk, but Macario regained possession and scored. From then Lyon dominated the game.

Above: Ada Hegerberg makes her return to action in the second half after over 20 months out injured. Photo: Getty Images.

To note, Ada Hegerberg made her return, at the 78th minute, after more than 20 months off the field following several injuries.

Highlights of second half:

48’ GOAL LYON! Macario 0-2

53’ GOAL LYON! Own goal from Larsen; following a corner from Bacha, Larsen was under pressure from Buchanan and put the ball in her own goal, 0-3.

78’ Ada Hegerberg came on from the bench for OL. Her first game for over a year and a half.

During the last 30 minutes of the game, Lyon obtained a lot of corners (63’, 65’, 72’, 82’, 84’) without being able to increase the score.

Referee: Lorraine Watson (SCO)

Goals: Melvine Malard (10), Catarina Macario (48), Larsen (53 OG) for Lyon.

Yellow cards: Luna Norgaard Gevitz (24’) for BK Häcken; Egurrola (87’) for Lyon.

BK Häcken: Falk, Okvist, Kullberg, Norgaard Gevitz, Rubensson, Curmark, Zigioti Olme (Holmes 63), Larsen, Rytting Kaneryd (Zomers 85), Gejl Jensen (Mijatovic 67) – Blackstenius. Substitutes unused: Hall, Kerlenas, Kollmats, Witj.

Lyon: Endler, Bacha, Henry, Buchanan, Carpenter (Morroni 78), Van de Donk (Baga 78), Egurrola, Macario (Hegerberg 78), D. Cascarino (Cayman 58), Bruun, Malard (Laurent 65). Substitutes unused: Holmgren, Paljevic, Sombath.

UEFA Women’s Champions League: New System For A New Season

by Catherine Paquette (17/8/21)

Above: Last season’s Champions League winners Barcelona list the trophy. Photo: David Lidstrom/Getty Images

The UEFA Women’s Champion’s League starts this week.  Under changes by UEFA, it will now follow a different format compared to previous years, transforming how the competition will occur.

The competition will start with a group stage qualification for the competition, split into two rounds.  Winners of the first round will be included in the group of teams that will be competing in the second round.  The winners of the second round proceed to a six match group stage followed by knock out rounds.  

The group stage qualification will follow two pathways: the champions path and the league path.  The different pathways were conceived to ensure that at least ten countries are represented in the sixteen team group stage.  Where each team enters depends on how they qualified, either as champions in their individual country or further down the league table in countries with more than one UEFA Women’s Champions League place, as well as their UEFA country coefficient.  

The first of the two rounds starts midweek in the form of mini-tournaments. Forty-three teams are entering this stage under the champions path, being split up into 11 groups of four and one group of three.  A draw decided which teams would meet for the first match in each group. The losers of the two matches in each group will then meet in a third place game.  The winners of of the first matchups in each group will meet to determine the first placed team.  

Above: Ada Hegerberg with the UEFA Women’s Champions League trophy. Photo: @UWCL

The league path will be nearly identical to the championship path.  Sixteen teams have been split into four groups and drawn for the first match.  The losers will also play for third place while the winners of the first match will play in the first-place game.  The eleven winners of the championship path and the four winners of the league path then proceed to round two of the group stage qualification.

Round two will start at the end of August.  It will comprise of the eleven round championship winners, as well as three other country champions who enter directly in round two.  They will be drawn for two-legged ties, with the seven winners proceeding to the group stage. The four round one league winners alongside six other league path teams enter directly into round two.  They will also be drawn and play two-legged ties with the five winners proceeding to the group stage. Four more country champions will also join the twelve round two winners in the group stage.

The group stage will split the sixteen teams into four groups of four.  All teams will play each other in home and away games this autumn for a total of six group stage games per team.  The top two teams in each group then proceed to the quarter final knock out stages. The knock out phase will remain unchanged with two-legged home and away matches prior to a one game final.

The full listing of the match-ups can be found at the following link:   https://www.uefa.com/womenschampionsleague/fixtures-results/?fbclid=IwAR2QdgfS0ybjUohsdGVWolrt6zptnpkBQMwjM4GXUEChKRrtcHIAvg1y5u4#/dw/1294   The tournament will be available from the group stage onwards on DAZN and for free on DAZN’s YouTube Channel.

Catalan Masterclass Leaves Chelsea Feeling Blue

Chelsea 0–4 FC Barcelona (18/5/21)

By Ben Gilby

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Above: A triumphant FC Barcelona lift the UEFA Women’s Champions League trophy after a stunning 4-0 win over Chelsea. Photo: @UWCL

Barcelona produced one of the greatest performances of any women’s club team in totally dismantling Chelsea to win their first Champions League title.

Chelsea boss Emma Hayes showed recognition of the threat posed by her team’s Catalan opponents by swapping Jess Carter and Niamh Charles’ backline positions around in a bid to counter the threat of Barcelona’s threat down the wings from Lieke Martens and Caroline Graham Hansen.

Whilst Spain might not quite have broken through to the top level in international women’s football as yet, it seems to be merely a matter of time. Of Barcelona’s squad of 25 players, 20 are Spanish and nine came through their own club academy. The bulk of these players know each other inside out playing together for both club and country; something which is a big part of the club’s success and Spain’s emerging status in Europe.

This is a squad of players who average 60% of possession across their domestic league games and scored 128 goals in a 26 game campaign. Only five club sides in Spain scored a single goal against them all year – Granadilla, Levante, Real Madrid, Real Sociedad and Deportivo la Coruna. In doing so, Barca won the league by 16 points from nearest challengers Levante who they humiliated 7-1 in a league clash.

The threat facing Chelsea up front was not just Spain’s all-time leading scorer Jenni Hermoso, but eight other players scored more than seven goals with Alexia Putellas notably adding 16 with the other hot shots including Asisat Oshoala (15), Lieke Martens (11), Aitana Bonmati (nine), Caroline Graham Hansen (eight), Bruna Vilamala (eight), Mariona Caldentey (eight) and Marta Torrejon (seven).

Also of pre-match interest was the Chelsea star Pernille Harder facing off against former VfL Wolfsburg team-mate, the Norwegian superstar Caroline Graham Hansen creating a further 12 goals to the eight she’s scored all season. Additionally there was the battle for the competition’s Golden Boot with Chelsea’s Fran Kirby tying with Jenni Hermoso with six goals.

The threat that Barcelona pose on the wings was emphasised from the kick off with Martens dancing down the left and firing in a shot which crashed off of the bar and came back immediately to Hansen on the right. Her first time ball in wasn’t quite dealt with in the air by Magda Eriksson and a shot deflected off of Melanie Leupolz and into the net

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Above: Alexia Putellas celebrates after dispatching a penalty to put Barcelona 2-0 up. Photo: Getty Images

Going into the game a common thread of thinking was that Barcelona would not be able to cope with the quality of Chelsea’s attack because they would have not faced such quality since their 4-1 defeat to Olympique Lyonnais in the 2019 Champions League Final.

What had been missed or glossed over pre-match was the fact that such has been Chelsea’s dominance in England this season – even against the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal – they were not used to facing a side with the relentless pace and threat of this Barcelona team who possess so many world class attackers not just centrally but out wide too. The FAWSL top sides in attack are far more ponderous than this incredible Catalan side. 

What these two schools of thoughts did guarantee now that they seemed to be colliding in front of our very eyes were the fact that an attacking classic could be consequence. That attacking classic turned out to be more one sided that anyone expected. In fact, it was a first half masterclass par excellence.

Whilst Barcelona kept both Ji and Kirby quiet all night long, Kerr and Harder were in evidence with the Dane having two excellent chances – first from a Carter ball across the box which she got a toe to just outside the six yard box and then on 9 minutes when Leupolz found Kerr. The Australian played a glorious back heel to Harder who was denied by a superb tackle from Marta Torrejon.

Despite Carter moving sides at the back in a bid to combat Graham Hansen, it clearly wasn’t working. With 12 minutes played, the Norwegian star escaped her with ease and rolled a ball across towards Hermoso who went down under a tackle from Leupolz. The penalty was given somewhat harshly and Putellas dispatched it comfortably.

The dazzling footwork of Barcelona saw Chelsea floundering at the back with 21 minutes gone. The pressure and split runs from the Catalans’ offensive five left the Blues struggling to pick out who to close down and how to do it. Carter was caught badly again in the centre with Hermoso running through which allowed Aitana Bonmati to dispatch with ease.

With ten minutes of the half left, the wide players took Chelsea apart again. A long ball out to Martens on the left saw her get past Charles as if she wasn’t there and play a low pass through Millie Bright’s legs which Hansen was able to touch home comfortably for four.

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Above: Caroline Graham Hansen and Lieke Martens celebrate the Norwegian’s goal which made it 4-0. Photo: Getty Images.

The set-up of the Barcelona midfield and attack simply enabled them to pick out their passes and keep the ball moving rapidly. Mentally, Chelsea never recovered from going behind so early. It was perhaps the downside of their domestic dominance in England.

Last week I wrote that Chelsea don’t have the strength in depth defensively that they can boast in offensive positions. This final emphasised that.

Chelsea’s first choice back four is good enough in the FAWSL. With them, Chelsea win against the top teams and dominate them. Winning is a habit, but when you come up against top quality who are totally ruthless, switch the play in ways you haven’t faced before and move with such pace, then it’s a shock and you get exposed.

Chelsea aren’t used to coping with a team attacking them so relentlessly. And it showed.

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Above: Chelsea’s Pernille Harder, who had several chances to score, suffered Champions League Final heartbreak for the third time. Photo: PA Media.

Barcelona suffered a four goal humiliation in their first Champions League Final. The aim now for Chelsea is to come back from a similar thumping to claim European club football’s greatest prize in the future.

Teams: CHELSEA: Berger, Carter, Bright, Eriksson, Charles, Leupolz, Ingle, Ji, Kirby, Harder, Kerr. Substitutes: Musovic (GK), Blundell, England, Reiten, Fleming, Cuthbert, Spence, Andersson, Telford, Fox, Beever-Jones.

FC BARCELONA: Panos, Torrejon, Guijarro, Leon, Ouahabi, Bonmati, Hamraoui, Putellas, Martens, Hermoso, Hansen. Substitutes: Codina, Serrano, Losada, Caldentey, Coll, Crnogorcevic, Oshoala, Fernandez, Vilamala, Font.

Scorers: Leupolz OG 1, Putellas (pen) 12, Bonmati 22, Hansen 36.

Referee: Riem Hussein (GER)

Route to the Final:

CHELSEA:

1st Rd – Benfica (POR) (5-0/3-0), 2nd Rd – Atletico Madrid (ESP) (2-0/1-1), QF – VfL Wolfsburg (GER) (2-1, 3-0), SF – Bayern Munich (GER) (1-2, 4-1).

FC BARCELONA:

1st Rd – Pomurje (SLOVENIA) (4-0/4-2), 2nd Rd Fortuna Hjørring (DEN) (4-0/5-0), QF Manchester City (ENG) (3-0, 1-2), SF Paris St. Germain (FRA) (1-1, 2-1).

Chelsea Make History

Chelsea 4-1 Bayern Munich (2/5/21)

Chelsea win 5-3 on aggregate.

By Ben Gilby

Chelsea produced a performance to be proud of as they became only the second English team in history to make a European club final.

Chelsea welcomed back talismanic captain Magda Eriksson after being out for almost a month. Additionally, the club’s regular left back Jonna Eriksson was moved to the bench and replaced by the 21 year-old Niamh Charles.

Bayern went into the game having won all of their previous Champions League away legs this season at Ajax (Netherlands), BIIK Kuazygyrt (Kazakhstan) and Rosengard (Sweden), but Chelsea were a significant step above any of the German’s previous opposition.

Within the opening two minutes, Fran Kirby was found down the right and played in Ji So-yun. The South Korean magician’s ball in was headed behind for a corner by Amanda Ilestedt. Bayern cleared, but Chelsea maintained the possession.

The visitors were content to sit back and let the South Londoners have possession and this partly aided the home side in levelling the aggregate score in the tie with the first involvement of Sam Kerr on 11 minutes.

Kirby drove through the centre and laid off a pass to Kerr who was outside her on the left. The Australian cut across and threaded an inch perfect return ball into the box for Kirby who was never going to miss. The goal ensured that Chelsea now held the advantage having scored an away goal in Germany.

Ji was hugely influential in these early stages and she played a delightful dinked pass to Kirby who popped up on the right. The Lionesses’ star tried to curl a shot into the far corner from an outrageously acute angle and didn’t miss by much.

Bayern responded on 15 minutes when a ball was cut back to Dutch international Lineth Beerensteyn, who got a shot away which Jess Carter got in well to block for a corner.

Back came Chelsea on 19 minutes when the visitors repeatedly failed to clear a free kick which allowed Melanie Leupolz to hit a drive over the bar. Leupolz was involved shortly afterwards when her cross in towards Kerr was hit behind by Marina Hegering for a Chelsea corner.

Despite Chelsea having so much more of the game, just before the half hour mark a moment of individual brilliance from Sarah Zadrazil put Bayern back ahead on aggregate and wiped out any away goal advantage that the hosts could have after a sensational strike. Carolin Simon’s corner was cleared straight to the Austrian who was around 25 yards from goal. She took one touch to control the ball before firing an unstoppable shot which flew into the net.

With ten minutes of the half to go, Chelsea had a half-hearted penalty claim waved away by referee Esther Staubli when Ji tumbled in the area under pressure by Ilestedt.

The visitors narrowly missed taking the lead on 38 minutes when Beerensteyn picked Leupolz’s pocket and found Lea Schuller who unleashed a vicious strike which flew just wide of the left hand post.

Chelsea recovered from the initial flurry after the Bayern goal and were given a free-kick with two minutes of the half left. Lina Magull fouled Kirby to the right of centre just outside the box and received a yellow card. Ji’s free kick hit the wall and rebounded straight back to the South Korean star who then guided a shot into the far left corner which trundled into the net.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Bayern came out firing at the start of the second half. Klara Buhl’s tempting cross had to be headed behind by Carter who had Schuller waiting behind her to score.

Chelsea weathered the storm despite the pressure continuing to ratchet up on them. On the whole, it was a second half where clear cut chances were few and far between as the game entered its final stages.

There was a self-inflicted heart in the mouth moment for the home side with twelve minutes to go when Leupolz’s long back pass only just went the right side of the post from their perspective.

Chelsea created a rare chance afterwards when Sophie Ingle’s long ball to Kerr was beautifully controlled by the Australian before she combined with Harder to find Kirby. Her cross from the right was towards the Matildas star but Bayern sub Carina Wenninger got in first. The resulting corner saw Kerr’s header comfortably saved by Laura Benkarth.

The home side pressed again and Beerensteyn conceded a free-kick just outside the box on the right with seven minutes left. Carter curled a glorious ball in and Harder was completely unmarked to head home to put Chelsea in front on aggregate for the first time.

With two minutes to go Kerr had the chance to settle matters once and for all when she used her searing pace to break through and tried to curl a shot into the far right corner, but it was wide.

Bayern immediately hit back to force a corner which resulted in a shot by Buhl which Eriksson had to clear off the line. It rebounded straight to Simone Laudehr whose effort was blocked by Kerr. Ann-Katrin Berger also made an outstanding save with her foot during this period.

The closing stages saw the Germans lay siege to the Chelsea goal. In doing so, Bayern threw goalkeeper Benkarth up front. This desperate gamble had catastrophic consequences for them when Erin Cuthbert won possession just outside her own box and found Kirby. With no-one in goal the England star could not miss and Chelsea were home and hosed.

The Blues will now go on to face FC Barcelona in the Champions League Final in Gothenburg on 16th May.

Speaking after the game, an emotional Chelsea boss Emma Hayes said: “I’ve worked my whole life for today and I’m so proud of my players. In these situations it is so tense. This is the consequence of thousands of hours of travelling and set-backs for me. I’ve done it through hard work and determination. I work with a set of players who were always in control. They did everything possible today.

“We were terrible defending set pieces today, but the team put bodies on the line. I played them a video from a UFC star before the game with the girl saying ‘I’m the best’. We’re in this position because we deserve to be.

“I’ve been here for nine years. It’s been a long time coming. I’m going to have a lovely sing song and cry on the way home!”

The only previous time that England has had a representative in a European club final was Arsenal in 2007. The Gunners lifted the trophy that with a 1-0 aggregate win over Swedish side Umea. Their assistant coach for that game was none other than the present Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes.

CHELSEA: Berger, Charles, Eriksson, Bright, Carter, Ingle, Leupolz, Ji, Kirby, Harder, Kerr. Substitutes: Musovic (GK), Blundell, England, Reiten, Fleming, Cuthbert (for Leupolz 88), Spence (for Harder 90+2), Telford (GK), J. Andersson, Fox.

Scorers: Kirby 11, 90+4. Ji 44. Harder 84.

BAYERN MUNICH: Benkarth, Simon, Hegering, Ilestedt, Glas, Zadrazil, Magull, Lohmann, Buhl, Schuller, Beerensteyn. Substitutes: Grohs (GK), Boye Sorensen, Corley, Dallmann (for Schuller 61), Asseyi (for Lohmann 76), Wenninger (for Simon 76), Lehmann (GK), Laudehr (for Ilestedt 88), Vilhjalmsdottir.

Scorers: Zadrazil 29.

Referee: Esther Staubli (SUI).

PSG End Lyon Champions League Dominance

Jean-Pierre Thiesset gives us his report of the UEFA Women Champion League round of 8 second leg, Olympique Lyonnais game against Paris SG (20/4/21).

Paris St Germain won 2-1 away from home against Lyon, and qualified for the UEFA Women’s Champions League semi-final against Barcelona. Unfortunately for Lyon fans and as I foresaw, Lyon were not able to step up. Even if Lyon scored quickly in the game, PSG players were more efficient with 13 shots on goal, of which four were on target while Lyon had only five shots, three of which were on target. PSG players were also more efficient on the passes with 70% of successful passes against 61% for Lyon.

Despite Lyon taking the lead thanks to a goal from Catarina Macario (4), PSG hit back with goals from Paris SG Grace Geyoro (24) and a Wendie Renard own goal (61).

PSG Rue Missed Opportunities In Quarter-Final

Jean-Pierre Thiesset reports on the UEFA Women’s Champions League Quarter-Final First Leg game between Paris St. Germain and Olympique Lyonnais (26/3/21).

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Above: About 20 OL ANG’ELLES fans were at the Groupama OL Training Centre to cheer for Olympique Lyonnais’ Women team on March 12, 2021. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset.

Olympique Lyonnais gained an important 1-0 win away from home in the first leg of their UEFA Women’s Champions League Quarter-Final against Paris St. Germain.

As an OL fan, it is difficult for me to say it, but Paris St. Germain deserved to win this game especially in the first half when they could have scored several times. Additionally, Lyon’s midfielders were not able to keep the ball which prevented them from putting their strikers in good positions to be able to threaten the PSG goal.

Lyon’s all important goal came from the penalty spot from Wendie Renard with four minutes left. It was awarded despite not being earned by a Lyon player.

Nothing is decided and the return game in Lyon on Wednesday March 31 will be interesting to watch. Even with one away goal, Lyon will have to step up to progress into the semi-finals.

Defending Champions in Less Than Convincing Win

Jean-Pierre Thiesset reports on the first leg of the UEFA Women’s Champions League round of sixteen tie between Olympique Lyonnais and Brondby (5/3/21).

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Above: Fans gathering at the Groupama Stadium. Photo via: Jean-Pierre Thiesset.

About 20 OL ANG’ELLES fans were at the Groupama Stadium entrance to cheer for Olympique Lyonnais Women team even if the game was not open to public.

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Above: Fans welcome the OL Feminin team coach to the Groupama Stadium. Photo via: Jean-Pierre Thiesset.

Lyon at home in the Groupama Stadium, won 2-0 against Brondby. A larger score was expected but despite the fact that the home side largely dominated the Danes (almost 75% possession for Lyon), they were not really efficient (23 shots but only 2 goals). After just six minutes, Brondby almost scored from a free-kick from Nanna Christiansen 18 yards in the centre of the field, which finished on the crossbar while Sarah Bouhaddi, Lyon goalkeeper, was beaten.

Goals for Lyon came from Lionesses star Nikita Parris (30) header at the first post on a cross from Amel Majri from the right side and Melvine Malard (92) on a cross from Janice Cayman from the right side.

So, the job is not completely done and a big game from Lyon in Copenhagen against Brondby will still be necessary to ensure to qualify for the Quarter-Finals.

If the strikers from Lyon were not able to score more, we must point out the great game from Lyon left and right defenders: Sakina Karchaoui, which played 60 minutes as a left midfielder and 30 minutes as left defender after Selma Bacha was replaced; Selma Bacha, which played 73 balls in only 60 minutes on the field; and Ellie Carpenter as right defender, which was elected player of the game. I would like to also highlight the good game of Catarina Macario for her first 60 minutes in UEFA Women Champion League game. We have to note that we saw an encouraging return of Eugénie Le Sommer for the last 30 minutes of the game.

A Magnificent Seventh For Lyon

VfL Wolfsburg 1-3 Olympique Lyonnais (31/8/20)

By Ben Gilby

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Above: Olympique Lyonnais celebrate their Champions League success. Photo: @OLfeminin

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).

PSG Wait Goes On As Lyon Extend Run

Paris St. Germain 0-1 Olympique Lyonnais (27/8/20)

By Ben Gilby

Lyon continued their domination over their closest rivals in the French domestic game with a 1-0 win over Paris St. Germain in Bilbao to reach their fifth consecutive Champions League Final.

The six times Champions League winners have a staggering record over the Parisians – having lost just four times to them in over forty matches. However, PSG can point to the fact that they were the last team to defeat the dominant force in French and European women’s football – albeit two years ago. Clearly the gap between the two sides continues to narrow, and PSG produced more than enough throughout this semi-final in the Basque Country to emphasise that it is just a matter of time before they lower Lyonnaise colours.

PSG coach Olivier Echouafni set out his side to deny Lyon the time, space and freedom to allow their creative players to dominate the game. The physical edge to the game which they showed so often against Arsenal in the Quarter-Final was also in evidence – it was a game plan which brought his team close to glory.

Paris were probing well in offence during the early exchanges and tried to maintain a high press. Sara Dabritz played a crucial role in this period, and she created the first real opportunity of the semi-final when she played in Perle Morroni, but the effort flew over the bar.

Just after the twenty minute mark, Lyon had an opportunity from a corner but Wendy Renard’s header could only hit the back of team-mate Lucy Bronze.

The ever dangerous Delphine Cascarino began to show her worth for the defending champions as she used her pace down the right to pull in a cross, but Nikita Parris, no slouch herself in the speed stakes, could not match her run to get onto the end of the cross in time.

The game then became disjointed after the half hour mark as PSG were forced to stop Lyon in their tracks with a number of fouls. From one of the eventuating free kicks, Dzenifer Marozsan played the ball in to Cascarino who hit an effort from outside of the box which was pushed away by Christiane Endler for a corner. As the resulting flag kick came in, Lucy Bronze’s free header was saved.

PSG responded with the influential Dabritz who combined with Kadidiatou Diani, but Sarah Bouhaddi saved.

Cascarino’s marauding down the right continued to cause problems for the Parisians and she was stopped by Paulina Dudek’s foul. From the free-kick, Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir headed just wide.

The fouls began to rack up for PSG and Nadia Nadim, already booked, put in a cynical effort on Sakina Karchaoui which warranted a second yellow, but no card was shown by referee Anastasia Pustovoltova. It remained 0-0 at the break.

The second half began in a similar fashion. Within seven minutes of the restart, Nikita Parris was fouled, but the free-kick missed everyone in the box. However the main cause for interest in the move was a clear shirt pull by PSG’s Paulina Dudek on Kadeisha Buchanan in the box. Nothing was given – although it would not be long before the referee found her cards once more.

With sixty-five minutes played, Lionesses star Lucy Bronze went on a super run which could only be halted by another cynical Paris challenge – this time by Grace Geyoro, who had already been booked and so received her second yellow.

There was double despair for PSG, as Amel Majri floated in the resulting free-kick which was met by the head of Wendy Renard to put Lyon ahead.

Three minutes later, Nikita Parris was shoved by Parisian captain Irene Paredes as the ball went out for a throw in. Parris was at the centre of the next drama as well when, having been booked earlier for shouting back to the referee, she got involved by needlessly pushing Christiane Endler and received a second yellow.

This indiscretion served to buoy PSG who were no longer hampered by the double disaster of being behind in both the score and number of players. They dominated the remaining fifteen minutes of the encounter.

Diani fired in a dangerous cross which Bronze needed to head away, but the pressure remained and Majri needed to make a desperate thumping clearance to no-one in particular up the field.

There were two final opportunities for the Parisians as the clock ticked down – first Dudek’s chance from a free-kick caused a huge playground style scramble with Lyon’s Dutch star Shanice van der Sanden finally clearing. Then Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir handled on the left, far too close to her own goal for comfort, but Dabritz’s free kick was comfortably claimed by Sarah Bouhaddi and the final danger passed.

For the third time in the last five seasons there will be a Wolfsburg v Lyon Champions League Final. However, the French side’s ambitions of a record breaking seventh win in the last eleven years will be tempered by the realisation that they will be far from their usual strength offensively for the final as not only will they be missing Ada Hegerberg through continued injury, but Nikita Parris’ sending off will see her suspended.

Teams: PARIS ST. GERMAIN: Endler, Lawrence, Paredes, Dudek, Morroni, Bachmann, Dabritz, Geyoro, Diani, Katoto, Nadim. Substitutes: Voll (GK), Criscione (GK), Simon, Cook, Luana, Saevik, Fazer, Baltimore (for Nadim), Bruun (for Baltimore), Huitena, Formiga (for Bachmann), Khelefi.

OLYMPIQUE LYONNAIS: Bouhaddi, Bronze, Renard, Buchanan, Karchaoui, Gunnarsdottir, Kumagai, Cascarino, Marozsan, Majri, Parris. Substitutes: Gallardo (GK), Talaslahti (GK), Bacha (for Karchaoui), Le Sommer (for Cascarino), van der Sanden (for Marozsan), Carpenter, Greenwood, Cayman, Taylor, Malard.

Scorer: Renard 67.

Referee: Anastasia Pustovoltova (RUS).

Wolfsburg Smash and Grab Shatters Barca

VfL Wolfsburg 1-0 Barcelona (26/8/20)

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

FC 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).

Parisian Flair Too Much For The Gunners

Arsenal 1-2 Paris St. Germain (23/8/20)

By Ben Gilby

A dream goal from Signe Bruun on her return from eighteen months out injured ensured that Paris St. Germain ended Arsenal’s Champions League hopes last night with a deserved victory over the Gunners in San Sebastian.

Bruun’s strike with thirteen minutes remaining was the eventual difference between two sides, although it was becoming clear that the two competitive games that PSG have played in recent weeks was enabling French side to win the physical fitness battle after the shut-down of the sport due to coronavirus.

The early stages saw Arsenal creating good opportunities with Vivianne Miedema pressing Christine Endler on a pass back and ensuring that the PSG keeper rushed her clearance out for a Gunners throw. The Dutch star also combined well with Kim Little before Nadia Nadim tidied away the danger. Arsenal also earned a free kick on the edge of the box in this period, but Beth Mead’s attempted ball in was disappointing.

As PSG settled they began to spray some beautiful passes around the field and looked increasingly comfortable on the ball. On the twelfth minute mark, Kadidiatou Diani was awarded a free kick after being fouled by Danielle van der Donk. Sara Dabritz’s ball in from the right was cleared, but not without penalty claims from the Parisians which were waved away by referee Esther Staubli.

Three minutes later, PSG were in front. Marie-Antoinette Katoto got away from Leah Williamson at a corner to side volley in a stunning strike.

Arsenal responded well to this blow and shortly afterwards they fashioned an opportunity when Noelle Maritz was played in by Miedema and then found Kim Little whose side footed effort went narrowly wide.

Little was involved again just after the half hour mark when she found Lisa Evans, but the French side tidied away the danger.

The Gunners’ efforts though were rewarded six minutes before the break when Maritz combined with Little who threaded a ball through to Beth Mead who fired a shot across the diving Christiane Ender into the far corner. PSG claimed the England forward was offside – something which replays seemed to agree with, but the goal stood.

Arsenal fashioned a further opportunity three minutes later when the increasingly influential Little went on a storming run down the left and cut inside to find Miedema whose effort went wide and the score remained 1-1 at the break.

Paris St. Germain came out firing in the second half, and within four minutes of the re-start, their former Chelsea star Ramona Bachmann ran down the right and came in to provide a pass to Kadidiatou Diani, whose effort was deflected out for a corner.

The French side were now well in control and forcing Arsenal onto the back foot throughout, ensuring that the North Londoners struggled to maintain any possession that they gained.

Just after the hour mark Sara Dabritz combined with Diani but Zinsberger saved well. Diani was linking up magnificently with Marie-Antoinette Katoto with the pair at the heart of the majority of Arsenal’s woes in the second half. The pair combined on 74 minutes with Zinsberger needing to stand up strong to block Diani’s effort with her feet.

PSG introduced Signe Bruun for the hardworking Ramona Bachmann with twenty five minutes left and the Danish striker was in the thick of the action immediately as she shot over the ball after being played in by Diani.

Just two minutes later though, Bruun killed off Arsenal’s hopes of Champions League progress. Katie McCabe lost out to Diani who played in Katoto once more. Her low cross found Bruun who swept the ball home.

Five minutes later the Parisians fashioned another opportunity when the dangerous due of Diani and Katoto combined to force Zinsberger into a save with Dabritz’s follow-up going narrowly wide.

To their credit, Arsenal rallied and finished strongly – aided by their bench. Last season at times it could be ventured that Joe Montemurro’s side fell down against the top sides due to a lack of strength in depth. Not so now – any team that can have players like Jordan Nobbs, Steph Catley, Caitlin Foord and Jill Roord as substitutes is going to be up there fighting tooth and nail with the best on all fronts.

The final stages saw Arsenal on the front foot in an attempt for an equaliser to force the tie to extra time. Caitlin Foord played in Miedema but the opportunity was cleared for a corner. The Dutch star was involved in Arsenal’s final opportunity when she combined with Katie McCabe to force a corner which was dealt with by the French side.

Paris St. Germain ran out deserved winners and now face domestic foes Olympique Lyonnais for a place in the Champions League Final. As for Arsenal, two weeks out from the start of the new FAWSL season, they will be in a good place to fight back for silverware domestically in a bid to return to this competition in twelve months time.

Teams: ARSENAL: Zinsberger, Maritz, Williamson, Beattie, McCabe, Walti, van der Donk, Evans, Little, Mead, Miedema. Substitutes: Nobbs (for Evans), Catley (for McCabe), Roord (for van der Donk), Foord (for Mead), Maier, Gut, Schnaderbeck (for Beattie), Stenson (GK), Felis, Mace.

Scorer: Mead 39.

PARIS ST. GERMAIN: Ender, Dudek, Paredes, Lawrence, Geyoro, Nadim, Dabritz, Diani, Morroni, Katoto, Bachmann. Substitutes: Voll (GK), Simon, Cook, Paixao, Saevik, Fazer, Baltimore (for Nadim), Bruun (for Bachmann), Huitenna, Formiga (for Diani), Khelifi, Pinguet (GK).

Scorers: Katoto 15, Bruun 77.

Referee: Esther Staubli (SUI).

Pernille Piles On The Pain

Glasgow City 1-9 VfL Wolfsburg (22/8/20)

by Ben Gilby

The Scottish champions’ incredible run in the UEFA Women’s Champions League came to a shattering end in San Sebastian last night against a star-studded Wolfsburg side.

This tie was always going to be tough for Scott Booth’s team, but the extra difficulties added since the coronavirus outbreak proved to make the tie virtually impossible for City.

The Petershill Park based outfit went into the game not having been able to play a match since February whereas their German counterparts, Champions League winners in 2013 and 2014, were able to complete their domestic campaign in June. This, plus an inherent difficulty in defending balls into their box conspired to make the game far more one sided than it may otherwise have been.

City started well with Krystyna Freda threatening only to be ruled offside. However, either side of the ten minute mark, Wolfsburg began to test Lee Alexander in the Glasgow goal. First, Fridolina Rolfo ran down the left before cutting in and hitting a cross shot that needed to be held. Shortly afterwards, Rolfo combined with Joelle Wedemeyer to play a ball into Ingrid Syrstad Engen, whose weak shot was saved.

The opening goal came after fifteen minutes when Danish star Pernille Harder drove through from midfield and played a one-two with Alexandra Popp. Harder was not picked up after offloading the ball and had the freedom to run onto the return pass to hit her shot past Lee Alexander.

Just four minutes later, the Germans doubled their lead. From a corner. Engen got away from Leanne Crichton, her would-be marker and her weak header squirmed into the net. Unfortunately for City, this goal marked the beginning of a worrying trend to concede from balls across their box.

After the quick fire concession of two goals, Glasgow City did well to stem the tide and, just past the half hour mark offered an attack of their own when Sam Kerr powered up the flank and played a ball in, but there was no-one there.

With five minutes left before the break, City had another chance. Lauren Wade looked up and saw Wolfsburg keeper Friederike Abt slightly off her line and put up a high lob which fell wide.

All City’s hard work in aiming to go in just two goals in arrears despite having only twenty percent of the possession then went up in flames as Wolfsburg doubled their lead in the closing two minutes of the first half.

First, a teasing ball in from the right was met by Ingrid Syrstad Engen who was allowed to come between two defenders to notch her second of the game. Then Laura Goessling’s free-kick on the left was played back to Pernille Harder who blasted an effort from outside the box. Lee Alexander got a hand to the shot, but only to help it fly even faster into the goal. It was 4-0 to Wolfsburg at half-time.

Wolfsburg brought on new signing from Manchester City, Pauline Bremmer after the break, but it was Glasgow City who fashioned an early opportunity. Lauren Wade played a ball through to Krystyna Freda, with the American’s effort just wide.

Six minutes later though, Wolfsburg showed once more how clinical they are. Once more, City struggled with a cross into the box and Pernille Harder was allowed to run between two defenders to head home.

Glasgow City were though rewarded for sticking in there on sixty three minutes, with the goal of the game. A long kick from Lee Alexander was flicked down to Lauren Wade who hit a glorious effort into the far top corner of the net.

The joy of the strike was cut short just three minutes later when Harder broke through. Zaneta Wyne’s tackle only succeeded in pushing the ball straight to substitute Felicita Rauch who grabbed Wolfsburg’s sixth of the evening.

It took just another five minutes for the Germans to add another goal, and it was the Danish star Pernille Harder who once more reaped the rewards in a painfully familiar style as far as City were concerned. Svenja Huth’s free-kick on the right was played in and Harder was allowed to run between two defenders again to head home.

The final ten minutes only served to add further heartbreak for the Scottish champions as, first Huth’s cross ballooned up and was headed past her own keeper by Leanne Ross and then, at the death, Lena Obersdorf’s attempted cross was deflected into the net off of Jenna Clark.

It was a cruel end to Glasgow City’s fairytale run – but this club’s history and ethos can make you sure of one thing – they’ll come back stronger from this.

Teams: GLASGOW CITY: Alexander, McLauchlan, Van Wyk, Ross, Wyne, Love, Kerr, Crichton, Wojcik, Freda, Wade. Substitutes: Clachers (GK) (for Alexander 83), Howat (for Love 63), Clark (for McLauchlan 83), Colvill (for Wade 78), Foley (for Wojcik 78) .

Scorer: Wade 63.

VfL WOLFSBURG: Abt, Doorsoun, Hendrich, Goessling, Wedemeyer, Engen, Popp, Huth, Harder, Rolfo, Pajor. Substitutes: Kasen (GK), Kiedrynek, Jakobfic, Janssen (for Hendrich 60), Bremmer (for Pajor 45), Blasse (for Doorsoun 75), Rauch (for Rolfo 59), Dickermann, Oberdorf (for Popp 81) Wolter.

Scorers: Harder 15, 45, 56, 71. Syrstad Engen 19, 45. Rauch 66. Ross (OG) 80, Clark (OG) 90.

Referee: Tess Olofsson (SWE).

Famous Night For Glorious Glasgow City

Glasgow City 0-2 Brondby IF (1/11/19)

Aggregate: 2-2. After Extra Time, Glasgow City win 3-1 on penalties.

by Ben Gilby

Glasgow City gained a famous victory over a side who reached the semi-finals of the Women’s Champions League as recently as 2014/15, but they had to do it the hard way.

Goalkeeper Lee Alexander was in inspired form, saving four penalties in the shoot-out and making a number of stunning stops throughout the night as the thirteen in a row Scottish champions made it through to the last eight for the second time in their history.

City came into the tie after a sensational 2-0 first leg success in Denmark thanks to a Sam Kerr strike and an own goal from Brondby keeper Katrine Abel. However, the Danes showed determination from the off to gain revenge.

Brondby started strongly, and after just four minutes, they forced a great save from Lee Alexander from Nicoline Sorensen. Only a minute later, the visitors were back in the tie thanks to Nanna Christiansen who directed a magnificent header across Alexander and into the far corner.

Glasgow City showed immediate signs of a reply through Megan Foley’s run down the left which took her past several would-be tackles before she was finally halted.

The Danes gradually took control in the second quarter of the half, and almost levelled the tie on aggregate when Frederikke Lindhardt’s teasing cross was narrowly missed by Josefine Hasbo. A further chance followed after twenty-three minutes when Christiansen’s cross was headed back towards her by Lindardt and the resulting thumping volley was saved magnificently by Alexander. The Glasgow City keeper was called into action just three minutes later when she snaffled Julie Tavlo Petersen’s header.

Glasgow City were struggling to get out of their own half and only offered sporadic threats. Clare Shine hooked an effort over the bar, but as the half entered its final ten minutes the Danes finally got the second goal that their dominance deserved. Lindhardt combined with Louise Winter Kristiansen and Nanna Christiansen in a magnificent build up before firing into the far corner. Brondby had one further opportunity before the break when Caroline Pleidrup’s cross was saved by Alexander.

Glasgow City boss Scott Booth took the opportunity at half-time to tighten up his defence and a fired up side came out to enjoy a greater percentage of possession in the second half. Within four minutes of the restart, Kirsty Howat created a great opportunity and found Hayley Lauder whose shot was fired just over the bar. Clare Shine fashioned another opportunity shortly afterwards but her effort found the side netting.

The game was now tight with far fewer opportunities, but both sides had golden opportunities to seal a place in the quarter-final in the final five minutes. Nicoline Sorensen was clean through, but Lee Alexander dived to save the day once more despite it appearing at that it would be far easier to score than miss. Then, Megan Foley’s strike looked to cannon off of Emilie Henriksen’s arm as she jumped. The referee didn’t see anything untoward, and the final opportunity of normal time passed.

With the tie level at 2-2 on aggregate, the drama moved into extra-time. Chances were now fewer and further between as both teams looked to stay solid. A Glasgow City free kick just before the halfway mark of the extra half hour saw Jenna Clark’s header come off of the underside of the bar. Sam Kerr’s attempted follow up was smuggled away by the Danes. Then, in the final minute of extra-time, Glasgow City were awarded a free kick, but Leanne Ross’ effort went wide.

So, to penalties, and once more it was the Scottish international keeper Lee Alexander who produced a succession of sensational saves to earn her club a stunning win.

Leanne Ross stepped up for the first penalty for City, which she fired home. Nanna Christiansen, who was excellent throughout levelled matters at 1-1. Kirsty Howat’s effort was saved, but in a matter of minutes her sorrow turned to joy as Alexander saved Julie Tavlo-Petersen’s effort brilliantly to the right. Substitute Eilish McSorley stepped up to put City 2-1 up. Freja Abilda’s effort was next to be saved by the outstanding Alexander as she stretched to the right to keep the shot out. A slight bout of nervousness returned to the Petershill Park faithful when Megan Foley’s penalty effort was saved to the right by Katrine Abel. But cometh the hour, cometh the hero once more as Lee Alexander threw herself to the left to push away Louise Winter Kristiansen’s penalty. Up stepped Jo Love to gleefully hit the winning penalty home.

It is an incredible achievement for a part-time team to make the Quarter-Finals of the UEFA Women’s Champions League. Glasgow City have a history of punching above their weight and achieving great things. Last night was arguably one of their greatest achievements. However, with Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Lyon, Paris St. Germain and VfL Wolfsburg the other sides in the last eight, there could be an even more famous night in the offing for Glasgow City when the Quarter-Finals come round in March.

Teams: GLASGOW CITY: 29) Lee Alexander, 2) Rachel McLauchlan, 4) Hayley Lauder, 6) Jo Love, 9) Kirsty Howat, 10) Clare Shine, 11) Nicola Docherty, 12) Jenna Clark, 16) Leanne Ross, 18) Sam Kerr, 23) Megan Foley. Substitutes: 25) Erin Clachers (GK), 14) Hayley Sinclair, 15) Nicola Reid, 19) Joanne Paton, 20) Carly Girasoli, 21) Jordan McLintock, 24) Eilish McSorley.

BRONDBY IF: 1) Katrine Abel, 4) Linnea Svensson, 6) Josefine Hasbo, 8) Emilie Henriksen, 9) Nanna Christiansen, 10) Louise Winter Kristiansen, 13) Kamila Karlsen, 15) Frederikke Lindhardt, 16) Nicoline Sorensen, 17) Julie Tavlo-Petersen, 24) Caroline Pleidrup.

Goals: Christiansen 5, Lindhardt 36.

Penalty Shoot-Out:

GLASGOW CITY:

Leanne Ross (scored), Kirsty Howat (saved), Eilish McSorley (scored), Megan Foley (saved), Jo Love (scored).

BRONDBY IF:

Nanna Christiansen (scored), Julie Tavlo-Petersen (saved), Freja Abilda (saved), Louise Winter Kristiansen (saved).

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